How could I have made a son like that

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
My son. How could I have made a son like that, Ned?

Source: Game of Thrones

Context: The speaker (the king) was annoyed with his son.

Can I change the quote into "How could I make a son like that"? What's the difference between them?
Thank you.

PS: I have read a thread here. So there's no difference in this case?
how could I have been..
 
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    The difference is the tense.
    If you see "making a son" as a one-off thing at the point of conception you should use the first one.

    If you see it as a longer process you might prefer your new version. However, even if you see "making a son" as a process, you might still think it has a finite point, say when the son leaves home, so you can still opt for the original version.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. Sorry I forgot to reply. I happen to encounter another similar sentence:
    ... and Jack was standing there, stunned and stupid, trying to understand how a thing like this could have happened.
    Source:The Shining
    Context: Jack lost his temper when he saw his son ruined part of his manuscript and in anger he broke his son's arm. But after that, he regretted doing so.
    I think "breaking the son's arm" is a one-off event which has finished so we can't say "how a thing like this could happen", right?

    I have read many other threads on this topic and I am left confused.
    Some native speakers say there is little or no difference.
    Some say if the act has definitely finished then it cannot be used in the present tense "how could somebody/something did X".
    Some argue that the difference is that "how could somebody/something have done X" means "somebody/something did do X at some time" whereas "how could somebody/something did X" implies "X has never happened and is impossible/unlikely that X ever will".
    Some argue that if X is so recent, "How could somebody/something do X" is preferred.
    So I am confused how I should understand the difference, so generally, what is the difference?

    Sorry for writing too much. But I hope you can clarify it.
    Thank you.
     
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