could stay/have stayed// could aske/have asked

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marcogaiotto

Senior Member
Italian
Hello! Can you help me, please?
Adapted from a dialogue:
A: Could you look after Janet while we are on holiday? I thought she (1) could stay/ (2) could have stayed with her grandparents, but they are going on cruise, and I (3) can't ask / (4) can't have asked them to give it up.
B: ...
I'd go for 1 and 3, but I'm wondering if 3 and 4 are completely wrong. What would you suggest? Thanks a lot in advance!
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Only 4 is completely wrong. But could is not the most natural word to use in that sentence. It can mean “was able to”, but here it’s meant in the counterfactual sense “I thought she would have been able to stay with her grandparents”, and this, I think, is how most native English-speakers would phrase it.
     

    marcogaiotto

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Only 4 is completely wrong. But could is not the most natural word to use in that sentence. It can mean “was able to”, but here it’s meant in the counterfactual sense “I thought she would have been able to stay with her grandparents”, and this, I think, is how most native English-speakers would phrase it.
    Do you mean that "could stay" and "could have stayed" are both possible, but the most natural is "would have been able to stay"?

    Thanks a lot to the both of you!
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    PAST-TENSE STATEMENT
    I thought she could stay with her grandparents, but that wasn’t possible.

    = I was under the impression that that was possible, but it wasn’t, so she didn’t.
    PRESENT-TENSE STATEMENT
    I thought she could stay with her grandparents, but that isn’t [going to be] possible.

    = I was under the impression that that was possible, but it isn’t, so she won’t.

    I thought maybe she could stay with her grandparents?

    = How’s this for an idea? She could stay with her grandparents!
    Here, there’s nothing to suggest the arrangement won’t go ahead. The possibility remains.
    I thought she would have been able to stay with her grandparents…
    Here, the conditional perfect alone tells us that the possibility no longer exists.
     
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