"How he could have lived and breathed in such a state stupefied him."

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Mgomvi

Member
Polish - Poland
"(...) he encountered the person of God, whose existence he had denied until a moment ago. Only then did he see the depth of sin, the shameless conceit and ignorance in which he was mired. How he could have lived and breathed in such a state stupefied him. In the glare of that mysterious divine light (...) he saw himself in all his wretchedness; and with genuine contrition he entrusted himself to Divine Mercy."

Is it speculating about the past situation/state (which could have been & indeed happened)?
This is my perpetual problem with this use of "could have + past participle" because my advanced grammars say:

- To talk about something somebody was capable of doing but didn't do.

- Often, there is a sense of criticism.

- We can use 'couldn't have' to talk about something we were not capable of doing.

- We can use 'could have' to speculate about what has happened.

- We can also use 'could have' to speculate about something that didn't happen.

- You can also use 'could have' to talk about possible present situations that have not happened.
 
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  • Mgomvi

    Member
    Polish - Poland
    The source (an extremely long article!): There is Another World (you can find the excerpt I quoted in the "Truth exists, and that Truth is a Person" subsection, exactly in the middle of its first paragraph).

    In essence: One day Andre Frossard (a renowned French journalist, essayist and atheist) enters a chapel in Paris. Almost instantly, and out of the blue Frossard is converted. In his own words: “That day I became a Catholic from head to toe, a Catholic beyond any doubt—not a Protestant, or a Muslim, or a Jew. On leaving the chapel I was as shocked to find myself a Catholic as as I would have been had I walked out of the zoo a giraffe. No institution had been more alien to me than the Catholic Church."
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Thanks. :thumbsup:
    How he had previously been able to exist in such a state (of sin, the shameless conceit and ignorance) amazed him.
     

    Mgomvi

    Member
    Polish - Poland
    Thanks. :thumbsup:
    How he had previously been able to exist in such a state (of sin, the shameless conceit and ignorance) amazed him.
    I couldn't agree more! This is exactly how I understand this sentence and how I would have written that.

    But I don't understand why "could have" is also correct. It doesn't relate to any of the 6 rules I mentioned in my original post. Would just "could" (= had been able) suffice?
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    It doesn't relate to any of the 6 rules...
    Stop right there...:D There are no rules in English - see my signature.

    Could is also the the simple past of "can"

    "I can jump a 1 metre fence. When I was younger I could jump a 2 metre fence."
     

    Mgomvi

    Member
    Polish - Poland
    Yes, sir! To boldly stop where no one learning English has ever stopped! That is the feat!
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    :thumbsup: There is only one rule in English -> “Obey all of the 231,4821 rules all the time.” Of those rules, 78.37% relate to a particular context, and of those, 0.88% relate to one unique example.

    The rules change on the first Friday of March in the year following a leap-year. In 2017, it was reported that 339 new rules were introduced, and 409 old rules were abolished.

    The rules are published by “The Committee For Rules in English” The committee now has only 2 members and a dog. The last time they published anything, was in 1905 and they are still discussing gerunds.

    1 not counting the conjugation of verbs.
     
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