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      • Native Language:
      • Czech
      • Home Country:
      • Czech Republic
      • Current Location:
      • Czech Republic

    • Join Date: Jun 2007
    • Posts: 180
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    couldnt/couldnt have/werent able to


    which of these make sense and is there any difference in meaning?

    #1 We tried hard but we couldn't persuade them to come.
    #2 We tried hard but we couldn't have persuaded them to come.
    #3 We tried hard but we weren't able to persuade them to come.

    Personally, contemplating over the issue before sending it, , Id prefer #1 & #3, but I can't get it why I don't like #2... Is #2 really incorrect? Is there difference between #1 & 3?

    Thanks for your time.

    Id appreciate a native speaker's comment in this case. Thanks for all reactions anyway.

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

    • Join Date: Sep 2003
    • Posts: 12,970
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    Re: couldnt/couldnt have/werent able to

    Examples 1 and 3 express the same meaning. As for example 2, couldn't have expresses a probability in the past.
    #2 We tried hard [to persuade them to come], but we couldn't have persuaded them to come (*because we didn't).
    Do you see the problem? It's ungrammatical because there is no probability. You did indeed try to persuade them to come; they turned you down.

    We could have bribed them (but we didn't), but they still wouldn't have come.
    Does that help?


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