I could imagine myself sitting there

Rizan

Senior Member
Pakistan-Urdu
1) "As we walked through Facebook and Twitter, I could imagine myself sitting there coding throughout the day," she said. "I'm not afraid to be one of the first girls to go into one of those fields. I want to pursue this career and maybe a CEO of a company".

2) So it looks like I've got a ten-year lag between living in a place and writing about it. In ten years, I might try to write something about China. Really in all my life I've never seen anything like it. I could imagine myself writing about some New Jersey Dominican guy, doing the English-teaching expat thing in Shanghai. Maybe. I'm sure it would be really, really bad, too. (This Week in Fiction: Questions for Junot Díaz)

3) A hundred and fifty years ago, I could imagine myself gazing at a rainbow and wanting to understand it. But in a world where I have no idea how my mobile phone or the internet work – or my car, or television or, for that matter, my fridge – everything seems so comprehensively unknowable that amateurish scientific curiosity feels futile. (Prof Brian Cox: ‘Being anti-expert – that’s the way back to the cave’)

Q: a) It seems to me that "could imagine" in (1) is different from that in (2) and (3). In (1), the "could" appears to mean "was able to", indicating past tense, whereas the "could" in (2) and (3) is more likely to have hypothetical meaning, indicating present tense. Is my understanding correct?

b) Does "could imagine" in (1) suggest she actually imagined that?

"As we walked through Facebook and Twitter, I imagined myself sitting there coding throughout the day," she said
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In all cases I could imagine myself = I was able to imagine myself -> I did imagine myself. The logical implication is that she did imagine herself there.

    The only way that you know that you are able to imagine something is to imagine that thing. If you imagine it, it proves that you are able to imagine it...

    Although, 2 and 3 are hypothetical, the meaning remains the same - the speaker believes that if he had lived 150 years ago/it were 10 years in the future then his power to imagine things would still be genuinely extant.
     

    Rizan

    Senior Member
    Pakistan-Urdu
    In all cases I could imagine myself = I was able to imagine myself -> I did imagine myself. The logical implication is that she did imagine herself there.

    The only way that you know that you are able to imagine something is to imagine that thing. If you imagine it, it proves that you are able to imagine it...

    Although, 2 and 3 are hypothetical, the meaning remains the same - the speaker believes that if he had lived 150 years ago/it were 10 years in the future then his power to imagine things would still be genuinely extant.
    Wouldn't the following sound better in (3):

    A hundred and fifty years ago, I could have imagined myself gazing at a rainbow and wanting to understand it...
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Wouldn't the following sound better in (3):

    A hundred and fifty years ago, I could have imagined myself gazing at a rainbow and wanting to understand it...
    No, not really. That sentence would be used in this context:

    A hundred and fifty years ago, I could have imagined myself gazing at a rainbow and wanting to understand it, but now I cannot imagine my doing that.
     

    Rizan

    Senior Member
    Pakistan-Urdu
    No, not really. That sentence would be used in this context:

    A hundred and fifty years ago, I could have imagined myself gazing at a rainbow and wanting to understand it, but now I cannot imagine my doing that.
    One last question:

    I think I can imagine myself... would be good in (2) and (3), although it would sound a little more definite/less hesitant than I could imagine myself...Am I right?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Yes... It would be similar to "I might be able to imagine myself..." but a lot would depend on the tone of voice. Said hesitantly, it sounds hesitant - said emphatically, it is very positive.
     
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