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    #1

    How could vs How could have

    Hello, I've been struggling with this for some time now and decided it's best to consult other people. Given a sentence like this "How could he have been allowed to live?" without any context, what can people infer from the sentence? Was he allowed to live or not? What I've learned from English grammar tells me that "he" wasn't because people only use "could have" for hypothetical situations that did not actually happen. However what is confusing me is that I've heard people say "could have" for things that actually DID happen. Any insight would be really appreciated.

    • Member Info
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    #2

    Re: How could vs How could have

    So what you're telling me is that if "could have done" is used in a conditional sense, i.e there is an "if" in the sentence, then the action did NOT actually happen? If "could have done" is used without "if" then the action DID happen? Is that a fair conclusion?

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: How could vs How could have

    Quote Originally Posted by meobeo View Post
    Hello, I've been struggling with this for some time now and decided it's best to consult other people. Given a sentence like this "How could he have been allowed to live?" without any context, what can people infer from the sentence? Was he allowed to live or not? What I've learned from English grammar tells me that "he" wasn't because people only use "could have" for hypothetical situations that did not actually happen. However what is confusing me is that I've heard people say "could have" for things that actually DID happen. Any insight would be really appreciated.
    "How could he have been allowed to live?" (without context) does not imply either that he lived or he didn't.
    With context:
    1. "He was a serial killer of 16 young women! Of course we executed him. How could he have been allowed to live? That would not have been justice." (He was not allowed to live).
    2. "He was a serial killer of 16 young women! And they only gave him life imprisonment! How could he have been allowed to live? I don't understand it." (He was allowed to live).

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