Could you believe OR Could you have believed??

Beth_Lee

Member
Chinese
Hello.

I was reading a novel and I came up with this. I don't understand the usage of the language.

A: I'm sorry. I lied to save you. And it didn't work. But how could you believe me?
After all the thousand times I've told you I love you? I could see it in your eyes, that you believed I didn't want you anymore.
- Quoted from the novel-- New Moon

Why does the author use 'could you believe' here? It doesn't sound right to me.
I think we should use 'How could you have believed me?"
They don't not mean the same, right?
Is it because when A says it, he believes the listener still thinks he doesn't love her? But that doesn't explain the 'me'.
And if he used the one I suggested, it would refer back to the past, right?
(How could you have believed me [at that time, in the past; which you did]?)

Or is it correct? We can use either? Then, what's the difference between the author's and mine?
What does it mean here? (How could you believe me)
Please explain.
Thanks so much.
 
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  • bennymix

    Senior Member
    A: I'm sorry. I lied to save you. And it didn't work. But how could you believe me?
    After all the thousand times I've told you I love you? I could see it in your eyes, that you believed I didn't want you anymore.

    It seems all right to me. "Have believed" means close to the same thing, but suggests the 'inability to believe' was a more drawn out process.

    Eliminate the question, to clarify: "And it didn't work. You could not believe me."
    or, "And it didn't work. There was no way you could believe me."


    To summarize the situation: A lied. B could not believe, at that moment.
     
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    Beth_Lee

    Member
    Chinese
    So, either of them could be used, but 'could have believed' suggests more about the inability to believe?
    Does it mean it's more emphatic?

    Thanks!
     
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    bennymix

    Senior Member
    /So, either of them could be used, but 'could have believed' suggests more about the inability to believe?/

    Yes, as I stated. The suggestion is that this inability stretched out over some span of time. This is possible, but the simpler interpretation is, as stated above: A* lied. B** could not believe it.

    * The "I" in the quotation.
    ** The "you" in the quotation.

    ==
    ADDED: To answer your later question:
    //And if he used the one I suggested, it would refer back to the past, right?
    (How could you have believed me [at that time, in the past; which you did]?)//

    The reference to the past is implicit in the simpler choice. The listener could not believe, and there is a reason for this being the case.
     
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    bennymix

    Senior Member
    To clarify this thread.

    In the above example,

    A: I'm sorry. I lied to save you. And it didn't work. But how could you believe me?

    the reference of 'it' is unclear. 1) "it" could refer the lie, and its not being believed. OR 2) "it" could refer to the result of a lie (which *was* believed); things didn't work out (a saving did not occur) as the liar had hoped.

    I have assumed 1).

    The interpretation of the underlined phrase and possible alternative wordings may hinge on which assumption is made.
     

    Beth_Lee

    Member
    Chinese
    Let me add more context.
    I'm sorry I wasn't clear before.

    In the book, the man lies to the woman that he doesn't love her anymore, because he has to leave town for her own good. So he leaves the town and the woman. But suring his absence, something bad happens. And then the man returns and realizes he shouldn't have left. The passage is what the man says to the woman after he returns.
    And 'It didn't work' means 'the plan' didn't work, the plan about leaving her. It was a mistake to leave her, the man thought it was best to leave her, to keep her happy and alive, but instead, something bad happened.


    Does it change something? Can I still use either 'Could you believe' and 'Could have believed' in this case??
    I think either can be used and they mean pretty much the same thing.
    Please comment.
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    The further issue is the meaning of

    //After all the thousand times I've told you I love you? I could see it in your eyes, that you believed I didn't want you anymore.
    //

    What is the timing of "I could see it in your eyes." Is it, 1)the thousand times? OR 2) is it the occasion, later, of the lie?

    I have assumed 1), but upon reflection, perhaps 2) is a better reading.

    All in all, Beth, I think there are likely some reasons (in light of the new material and our discussion) to think that your "How could you have believed" is preferable, since there is a longstanding situation of belief, and a puzzling instance of non-belief.
     

    Beth_Lee

    Member
    Chinese
    It means when he told her the lie, the saw in her eyes that she believed he didn't want her anymore.

    Does it make a difference?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think it's "how could you", said reproachfully. Yes I lied to you but, bearing in mind all my protestations of love, how could you be so unfeeling as to believe my lies. "How could you believe me" sounds fine to me, because the believing had duration. "How could you have believed me" is possible too, but it suggests one completed action of believing rather than believing over a period of time. I think this point about duration is what bennymix was saying too in post #4
     

    bennymix

    Senior Member
    It makes a difference because, as I now read the passage, he said he loved her a thousand times *and it was believed.* That is the standing situation. Now he lies (for good purpose): "I don't love you, I'm leaving."

    He is believed. Later he asks, "How could you believe that (in light of the past)? Equally, "How could you have believed that?" Perhaps the latter is slightly to be preferred.
     

    Beth_Lee

    Member
    Chinese
    It makes a difference because, as I now read the passage, he said he loved her a thousand times *and it was believed.* That is the standing situation. Now he lies (for good purpose): "I don't love you, I'm leaving."

    He is believed. Later he asks, "How could you believe that (in light of the past)? Equally, "How could you have believed that?" Perhaps the latter is slightly to be preferred.
    I'm getting it.
    'How could you believe that (when I told you I didn't love you; which you believed)?' = 'How could you have believed that?'
    So you agree that they mean pretty much the same, but the latter is slightly more preferred. And the first one already has the function of referring back to the past, the moment I told you.
    Right?

    Thanks!
     

    Beth_Lee

    Member
    Chinese
    I think it's "how could you", said reproachfully. Yes I lied to you but, bearing in mind all my protestations of love, how could you be so unfeeling as to believe my lies. "How could you believe me" sounds fine to me, because the believing had duration. "How could you have believed me" is possible too, but it suggests one completed action of believing rather than believing over a period of time. I think this point about duration is what bennymix was saying too in post #4
    What does that mean? Are you referring to the 'thousand times', which were believed?
    Thanks!
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    No, I mean that she believed the lie he told her, and he is looking at it as a state of believing that continued over time. But the difference between "how could you believe me?" and "how could you have believed me?" is very slight in this context.
     

    Beth_Lee

    Member
    Chinese
    Let's see.

    If it was just that simple, a single action in the past.
    D: I slapped Ben last night.
    E: What? How could you do that? / How could you have done it?

    Personally, I think they are all correct, either can be used. But the latter one is more emphatic on the inability, as benny stated. But the first one could be referrring to the past, OR just simply showing surprise about the news.

    Am I right?
    Do you agree?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    In your new example I would use "How could you do that?", if the attitude is one of reproach, and surprise too if you like.
    "How could you have done that? Ben was out of town last night."

    In this case, where the action is so recent, I would definitely prefer "How could you do that?"
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    To my ear,
    A: I'm sorry. I lied to save you. And it didn't work. But how could you believe me? .
    = But how, at the time, could you believe me?

    A: I'm sorry. I lied to save you. And it didn't work. But how could you have believed me? = But how, as you think of the past and see me now, could you have believed me?
     

    Amber_1010

    Senior Member
    Chinese-Cantonese
    Have read Paul's post.


    I wonder if the second case works in this way too.
    What do you think? Benny? Paul? Anybody?

    Thanks:)
    Let's see.

    If it was just that simple, a single action in the past.
    D: I slapped Ben last night.
    E: What? How could you do that? / How could you have done it?

    Personally, I think they are all correct, either can be used. But the latter one is more emphatic on the inability, as benny stated. But the first one could be referrring to the past, OR just simply showing surprise about the news.

    Am I right?
    Do you agree?
     
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