grammar

Status
Not open for further replies.

jiang

Key Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2003
Member Type
Student or Learner
Native Language
Chinese
Home Country
China
Current Location
China
Is the sentence 'You can't have seen him last week. He was in New York' correct? Shouldn't it be 'couldn't' instead of 'can't' since it is 'last month'?
 

Casiopea

VIP Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2003
Member Type
Other
jiang said:
Is the sentence 'You can't have seen him last week. He was in New York' correct? Shouldn't it be 'couldn't' instead of 'can't' since it is 'last month'?

You couldn't have seen him. (could, past; seen, past)

You can't've.... (non-standard, moving towards slang)

:D
 
C

CitySpeak

Guest
jiang said:
Is the sentence 'You can't have seen him last week. He was in New York' correct? Shouldn't it be 'couldn't' instead of 'can't' since it is 'last month'?

I think the "can't have + past participle" form is used mostly in British English. I would wait for a BE speaker to comment on that.

It exists in American English, but as I can recall, it's not something I've heard or read often at all.

Here is a link to that form on a grammar site.

It also has a relatively small amount of hits on Google. The form exists, but it's simply not something one often encounters in Amercan English. I think your best bet is to stick with "couldn't have + past participle". This is the form that you will mostly come across in reading and conversation, I would say. Actually, that is what I say.

If you've been told before that this form is wrong, it is probably because most people are not accustomed to it. I can tell you it's not something I would be likely to say or write at all. I have to say "couldn't have + past participle" is the form that is used most often between the two. I would also say they mean the same thing.

I'd wait for a BE speaker to comment on "can't have + past participle" as well.


http://www.geocities.com/suzkeadie/mustcantneednthave.html

"can't have seen"

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q="can't+have+seen"&btnG=Google+Search


"couldn't have seen"

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q="couldn't+have+seen"
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
You can't have is perfectly normal BE. The positive is not used, we would use must have instead. ;-)
 
C

CitySpeak

Guest
tdol said:
You can't have is perfectly normal BE. The positive is not used, we would use must have instead. ;-)


You can't have seen him - It was not possible that you saw him. - I don't think/believe it was possible.

You couldn't have seen him - It was not possible that you saw him. - I don't think/believe it was possible.

You could have seen him. - It was possible that you saw him. - I think it was possible that you saw him.


I don't understand how "You must have seen him." is used as the opposite of "You can't have seen him."

Does the "can't have+past participle" form carry the same meaning as the "couldn't have+past participle" form to you?

I will say that "can't have+past participle" is not very common at all in American English. I can't really recall ever hearing it. I might have read it, but that would be it.
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
I'd say it is equal to 'You couldn't possibly have seen him'. The present offers more certainty. ;-)
 
C

CitySpeak

Guest
tdol said:
I'd say it is equal to 'You couldn't possibly have seen him'. The present offers more certainty. ;-)


Okay, but I still don't quite get how in BE "must have+past participle" would be taken to mean the opposite of "can't have+past participle".

couldn't have seen him - opposite = could have seen him

can't have seen him - opposite = could have seen him

can't have seen him - How would we know that "You must have seen him." is true or likely simply because "You can't have seen him." is not true or doesn't apply?
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
can't have = impossible
must have = certain
 
C

CitySpeak

Guest
tdol said:
can't have = impossible
must have = certain


Then where would you go to simply say "possible" in opposition to "can't have", which means impossible?
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
can't have
may have
must have

? ;-)
 
C

CitySpeak

Guest
tdol said:
can't have
may have
must have

? ;-)

Then the form "can't have+past participle" has not anything that works in direct opposition to it.

I don't see how one imagines "must have+past partiple" working in opposition to "can't have+past participle". I would say the same for "may have+past participle".

:shock:
 

Casiopea

VIP Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2003
Member Type
Other
tdol said:
You can't have is perfectly normal BE. The positive is not used, we would use must have instead. ;-)

CitySpeak said:
I don't understand how "You must have seen him." is used as the opposite of "You can't have seen him."

"The positive (i.e. You can have seen him) is not used, we would use must have instead." In other words, speakers do not use 'can have -en' forms, which tdol refers to as 'The positive' form of 'can't have -en' because it lacks negation, 'not'.

To me, You can't have seen him = You couldn't have seen him.

Moreover, to me, the opposite , or affirmative of 'can't have' is 'can have':

Negative: You can't have that cake. (means, impossible)
Affirmative: You can have that cake. (means, possible)

But there is no 'can have -en',

Negative: You can't have seen him. (means, impossible, OK)
Affirmative: You can have seen him. (means, possible, Not OK)

"You can have seen him is not Ok because 'can' must agree in Time with 'seen'==> "You could have seen him. In the case of "You can't have seen him", which is Ok, it differs in that the adverb 'not' serves to sever the relationship between 'can' and 'seen', like this,

a. You can [do this] (e.g. You can [have the cake])
b. You can [not have seen him]. S+V+O

In b. the "not have seen him" functions as the object of the verb "can". compare, c. below, wherein "not have seen" functions as the verb phrase and "him" functions as the object of that phrase:

c. You could not have seen [him]. S+V+O

Let's compare the two,

d. You can not have seen him. object
e. You could not have seen him. object

The difference between d. and e. has to do with structure. Some speakers view "can" as a verb (as in d.), whereas other speakers view "can" as a modal (as in e.) If speakers view "can" as a modal, then "can" must agree in Time with "seen" (i.e. could have seen); if speakers view "can" as a verb, then "can" need not agree in Time with "seen" because "seen" is not functioning as a verb; it's functioning as an object.

:D
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
Thanks for that- I did mean 'can have + past participle' is not used, where the negative is.

BTW, Cas, why do linguists use '-en' for the past participle? I've always wondered. It doesn't seem the most obvious choice. ;-)
 

Casiopea

VIP Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2003
Member Type
Other
tdol said:
Thanks for that- I did mean 'can have + past participle' is not used, where the negative is.

BTW, Cas, why do linguists use '-en' for the past participle? I've always wondered. It doesn't seem the most obvious choice. ;-)

You're always welcome, tdol. :D

About your question, I've one myself. Do you mean, instead of writing "have -ed" or do you mean, where did "-en" come from?

To answer the first, to my knowledge, linguists generally write "have -ed/-en". (I chose "-en" as a means of saving time.) However, one reason some people might choose to write "have -en" may have something to do with the fact that '-en' is rare and hence may be more recognizable as a general symbol for the past participle markers -ed/-en, since the "-ed" suffix is commonly recognized as the past tense suffix.

With regards to why the suffix -en is rare, here's a low-down on the Old English strong verb "seon" (see), the past participle of which took the suffix -en. (By the way, Old English weak verbs took -ed).

Class 5 strong verb
séon (to see)

Pres. Past
Ind. Subj. Imp. Ind. Subj.
Sg.1 séo - seah
2 síehst } séo seoh sáwe } sáwe,
3 síehþ - seah sæge

Pl. séoþ séon 2 séoþ sawon sáwen

Participle
I séonde II gesewen, gesegen

http://members.tripod.com/babaev/archive/grammar43.html#8

:D
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
Thanks- I meant the use of -en for the past participle. Have you studied Old English? ;-)
 

Casiopea

VIP Member
Joined
Sep 21, 2003
Member Type
Other
tdol said:
Thanks- I meant the use of -en for the past participle. Have you studied Old English? ;-)

:D Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, Old English, Middle English, Athapaskan languages (e.g. Navajo), Japanese, Korean, Romance (e.g. French, Spanish), and more. :D


steorarum (m), Old English, cyberspace. :shock:

Circolwyrde Wordhord
http://www.u.arizona.edu/~ctb/wordhord.html
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
That's quite an array. ;-)
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Should I say Cas is smarter than me or Cas is smarter than I?

:wink:
 

Tdol

Editor, UsingEnglish.com
Staff member
Joined
Nov 13, 2002
Member Type
Native Language
British English
Home Country
UK
Current Location
Japan
Either or, for more emphasis, both. You can then add 'than I am' to finish the job. In my case, I think all three are required. ;-)
 

RonBee

Moderator
Joined
Feb 9, 2003
Member Type
Other
Native Language
American English
Home Country
United States
Current Location
United States
Cas is smarter than Tdol.

:wink:
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top