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  1. angliholic's Avatar
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    #1

    Smile I could have been anywhere in the world

    During our relaxing lunch, I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized I could have been anywhere in the world. There were other Western people at the table next to us, and a group of African people on the other side of the restaurant.


    I wonder if I could write "I could be anywhere in the world" instead of the line in bold? If yes, what are the differences between them? Thanks.

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    #2

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    Hello Angliholic,

    When you look round the restaurant, you think to yourself "I could be anywhere in the world".

    When you report that thought to a friend, you backshift the verb: thus "I could have been anywhere in the world".

    All the best,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

  2. angliholic's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    Hello Angliholic,

    When you look round the restaurant, you think to yourself "I could be anywhere in the world".

    When you report that thought to a friend, you backshift the verb: thus "I could have been anywhere in the world".

    All the best,

    MrP
    Thanks, MrPedantic, for the clear reply.
    You're really learned.
    By the way, does "backshift the verb" indicate "shift/switch the tense of the verb back?"

  3. #4

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    Quote Originally Posted by angliholic View Post
    Thanks, MrPedantic, for the clear reply.
    You're really learned.
    By the way, does "backshift the verb" indicate "shift/switch the tense of the verb back?"

    Yes, he certainly is learned
    I would add that in your example (with no reported speech elements etc...) although "could have been..." is absolutely perfect in every way, it is possible one might hear/say/write/read simply "could be..." with no ambiguity.

    Fiona

  4. angliholic's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    Quote Originally Posted by fiona bramble View Post
    Yes, he certainly is learned
    I would add that in your example (with no reported speech elements etc...) although "could have been..." is absolutely perfect in every way, it is possible one might hear/say/write/read simply "could be..." with no ambiguity.

    Fiona
    Thanks, fiona, for joining us.
    For the sake of clarification, if we use "could be" in the base sentence, are there any subtle nuances between it and the original version?


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    #6

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    Quote Originally Posted by angliholic View Post
    During our relaxing lunch, I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized I could have been anywhere in the world. There were other Western people at the table next to us, and a group of African people on the other side of the restaurant.


    I wonder if I could write "I could be anywhere in the world" instead of the line in bold? If yes, what are the differences between them? Thanks.
    Isn't he just! I actually look forward to clicking on Mr P's responses.

    No, A, the meanings are identical. I would say though, that if someone were relating that event to a friend and chose to stick with 'could be', they might add something that indicates a direct quote,

    "I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized "Hey, I could be anywhere in the world."

  5. #7

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    [quote=angliholic;219514]Thanks, fiona, for joining us.
    For the sake of clarification, if we use "could be" in the base sentence, are there any subtle nuances between it and the original version?[/quote]


    Good to be here Sorry, I meant to reply to this earlier. In my opinion, direct vs. reported speech discussion aside, "could be" suggests a more recent, or more immediate impression, if you will, and "could have been" (just as its form suggests) seems further past or removed. In a written context, I think it would be a stylistic choice on the part of the writer.
    Fiona

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    #8

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    Thank you for your kind words, Angli, Fiona, and RK.

    1. I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized I could have been anywhere in the world.

    2. I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized I could be anywhere in the world.

    I must admit, I find a difference between the two versions. #1 suggests to me that he knows where he is; #2 suggests that he doesn't.

    With the introductory "relaxing lunch" clause, therefore, which makes it clear that he does know where he is, only #1 makes sense (to me).

    (But as with all modal discussions, I don't doubt that other ears, tuned slightly differently, hear other things.)

    Best wishes,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.


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    #9

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    Thank you for your kind words, Angli, Fiona, and RK.

    1. I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized I could have been anywhere in the world.

    2. I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized I could be anywhere in the world.

    I must admit, I find a difference between the two versions. #1 suggests to me that he knows where he is; #2 suggests that he doesn't.

    With the introductory "relaxing lunch" clause, therefore, which makes it clear that he does know where he is, only #1 makes sense (to me).

    Actually, when I read your comments, Mr P and read it over a few times it made less and less sense to me. Seeing a number of different ethnic groups seems to preclude the possibility of being anywhere in the world because most places in the world wouldn't be that cosmopolitan.

    Unless, unless the person was saying that by looking at each group individually, he could imagine being in an area/country that was populated by that specific group of people.

    I also understand the distinction you made and I agree that it might be glossed that way. But it could also be that the speaker simply failed to "backshift" to give more prominence to the speech, to either give it as a direct quote or to give it a direct quote feeling. Sort of like this;

    During our relaxing lunch, I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized, "Hey, I could be anywhere in the world". Look at those people, we could be in France, and there, we could be in Canada, and hear those folks, we could be in Nigeria.


    During our relaxing lunch, I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized I could have been anywhere in the world. There were other Western people at the table next to us, and a group of African people on the other side of the restaurant.

    (But as with all modal discussions, I don't doubt that other ears, tuned slightly differently, hear other things.)

    Best wishes,

    And to you too.

    MrP
    During our relaxing lunch, I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized I could have been anywhere in the world. There were other Western people at the table next to us, and a group of African people on the other side of the restaurant.

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    #10

    Re: I could have been anywhere in the world

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    During our relaxing lunch, I slowly looked around the restaurant and realized, "Hey, I could be anywhere in the world". Look at those people, we could be in France, and there, we could be in Canada, and hear those folks, we could be in Nigeria.
    Yes, that works for me too.

    I think you're right about "Seeing a number of different ethnic groups...that cosmopolitan". I suppose no group predominated.

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.

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