could swear/could have sworn

Phoebe1200

Senior Member
Russian-Russia
Greetings.

Context: The young girl is talking to an agent about her serial killer father. She's telling him about an incident that happened in her childhood.
She brought home a stray puppy once. While she went to get him some food, she gave the puppy to her Dad to hold. And when she got back, she saw how her Dad was killing the puppy.

She says to the agent: I could swear he looked like he was having fun.


My question is why she says "could swear", I mean, she's talking about the past, why isn't it "I could have sworn"?
 
  • Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    I could have sworn he looked like he was having fun.
    = At the time it happened, I thought that he appeared to be having fun.

    I could swear he looked like he was having fun.
    = Even now, I believe that he appeared to be having fun.
     

    Sparky Malarky

    Moderator
    English - US
    I could have sworn is something we usually say when we have just been proven wrong.

    I could have sworn I threw this away last week, but here it is.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Hi,
    So I take it that unless the person has been proven wrong as Sparky Malarky points out, I'm free to use either could swear or could have sworn in all other situations with no difference in meaning.
    The difference is simply whether I want to set it in the past or present, right?

    For example, If I had been asked (at that time), I could have sworn he was having fun.
    If I was asked now, I could (still) swear he was having fun.
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    Thanks so much for your reply.

    It doesn't make a difference. Either "could swear" or "could have sworn" might be said when you are proven wrong.
    So it's OK to use "could swear" in Sparky Malarky"s example?


    I could swear I threw this away last week, but here it is.
     
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