[could have met] vs. [couldn't have taken]

JJXR

Senior Member
Russian
Hello to all,

Thanks for reading my post.


Context:

Sentence #1:

John has complained to Chris that the police stops him way too often, so Chris tells John: "You know, John, I had the same problem when my car was yellow. I have painted it black, and now the police almost never stops me. My advice to you is to do the same with your red car to solve the problem." John replies to Chris with sentence #1.

Sentence #2:

The speaker (who's the listener's boss) wants the listener to discuss an important business matter with Bill tomorrow. The listener tells the speaker that Bill bought a ticket to New York yesterday and is going to leave tonight, so he/she cannot meet Bill tomorrow. The boss stresses the importance of meeting Bill to the listener, then says sentence #2 to express his/her regret.

Sample sentences:

1. I've considered that option, Chris, but I should wait until the end of next week: if I had already painted my car black, and it didn't look as bright as it does, I couldn't have taken part in the races scheduled for next week. Dull cars are not accepted there.

2. If Bill hadn't bought the ticket to New York yesterday, and wasn't going to leave tonight, you could have met him tomorrow.

Question:

I see sentences #1 and #2 as parallel cases. The conditional perfect "could have met" is correct in sentence #2 and implies that the possibility of meeting Bill tomorrow is now closed. Logically, "couldn't have taken" should also be correct in sentence #1.

Does "couldn't have taken" work for anyone in sentence #1 with the meaning that John can take part in the races scheduled for next week and that there's no reason to expect that he won't be able to?


Thanks a lot for any comments, corrections or suggestions!

Regards,
JJXR
 
Last edited:
  • Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    No, it doesn’t work. Sentence 2 has a negative condition and a positive consequence, and it doesn’t work the other way round (positive condition and negative consequence)
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the response, Glasguensis.

    Here's a link to my other thread:
    Context:

    It's early morning. Parents have discovered that their daughter forgot the keys at home when she left for work. They both now have to leave because they have a flight in three hours. They decide not to lock the door so that their daughter can get in when she gets home in the evening. After they've arrived at the airport, the dialog below takes place (the daughter hasn't yet gotten back home).

    Sample sentence:

    Mother: "We should have locked the door. Someone might steal something while there's no one at home."

    Father: "But if we had locked the door, she couldn't have gotten in when she got back from work, and then she would have been upset. Don't worry! Nobody knows that the door is unlocked."

    Question:

    Do the bolded tenses work in this case? If so, are the modal verbs "couldn't" and "would" used correctly?
    My answers are yes, and yes.
    The sample sentence in that thread has a positive condition and a negative consequence. Cenzontle says it works like that.

    I would greatly appreciate it if more people could advise me on this. Thanks in advance.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Sentence (1) works for me with a conditional perfect tense in the main clause.

    In the counterfactual condition scenario, John has just painted his car black, therefore disqualifying him from entering and so the possibility of his taking part in the races next week is, as I see it, now in the past (unless he resprays it).

    Is that what you're asking about?
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks a lot to everyone for replying to this thread.
    Sentence 2 has a negative condition and a positive consequence, and it doesn’t work the other way round (positive condition and negative consequence)
    If I turn my original sentence #1 (post #1) into one that has a negative condition and a negative consequence, like this:

    1A. If I hadn't refused to paint my car black, and it didn't look as bright as it does, I couldn't have taken part in the races scheduled for next week.

    Does the conditional perfect "couldn't have taken" still not work for you?
    Sentence (1) works for me with a conditional perfect tense in the main clause.

    In the counterfactual condition scenario, John has just painted his car black, therefore disqualifying him from entering and so the possibility of his taking part in the races next week is, as I see it, now in the past (unless he resprays it).

    Is that what you're asking about?
    Yes. Does "couldn't have taken" work for you in post #1, or should it be replaced by "wouldn't have been able to take" (as in the other thread)?
     

    Glasguensis

    Signal Modulation
    English - Scotland
    1A would be acceptable but still not as good as “wouldn’t be able”. I’m not sure why you’re so keen on using this form - many native speakers never use it, since there are almost always simpler alternatives.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Sentence #2:

    The speaker (who's the listener's boss) wants the listener to discuss an important business matter with Bill tomorrow. The listener tells the speaker that Bill bought a ticket to New York yesterday and is going to leave tonight, so he/she cannot meet Bill tomorrow. The boss stresses the importance of meeting Bill to the listener, then says sentence #2 to express his/her regret.
    2. If Bill hadn't bought the ticket to New York yesterday, and wasn't going to leave tonight, you could have met him tomorrow.
    Hello Glasguensis, could you please tell me what you would prefer in sentence #2 (post #1): "could meet" or "could have met"? Thanks in advance.
     
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