Modal Construction: Could you have done ... please?

AntiScam

Senior Member
Arabic
All,

On this page, could was used to ask polite questions and the following example was given:
Could you have erased the disk?
I have never seen such use before. Could I use the following sentence in real life?

Could you have printed these sheets for me, please?

Could you provide a common example of this "could + subj. + have ...?" construction, or a quote of it? Probably from a corpus or Google Books etc.
 
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  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I have never seen such use before. Could I use the following sentence in real life?

    Could you have printed these sheets for me, please?
    No

    If you say "Could you have printed these sheets for me," it means "is it possible that you printed these sheets for me?"

    Likewise, "
    Could you have erased the disk?" means "is it possible that you erased the disk?"

    Adding "please" makes no sense

    .
    Also note that the link you posted does not take you anywhere.
     

    AntiScam

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Thank you sdgraham

    I'm afraid I didn't get what "No" is for in your answer, so let me get this straight. My sentence is incorrect because:
    1- the construction itself is incorrect to use for asking questions of this kind (which is what I suspect)
    or
    2- "please" ruins the construction and so it should be taken out.
    or
    3- both

    And by the way, I have fixed the link so you could have a look at the page.
     

    AntiScam

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I'm assuming the question is about the "present" that I want the disk to be erased, and not about a "missed opportunity"


    For your convenience and in case the link becomes dead in the future. I have quoted the relevant section below:

    Could
    Technically, could is the past tense of can, but it is an auxiliary verb with a few uses, not all of which are in the past tense, namely the following:


    • As the past tense of can:
    In those days, all the people could build houses. = In those days, all the people had the ability to build houses.

    • To ask questions:
    Could you have erased the disk? = Is it possible that you erased the disk?
    Could I leave now? = May I leave now; am I allowed to leave now?


    • To show possibility:
    You could study harder than you do. = You have the potential to study harder than you do.
    He knew the sunset could be spectacular. = He knew that the sunset was sometimes spectacular.


    • To express tentativeness or politeness:
    I could be wrong. = I may be wrong.
    Could you come over here, please? = Please come here.
     
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    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I'm sorry, but I don't quite understand what you are trying to do.

    "Could" is both the subjunctive and the past tense of "can" and this causes problems for learners.

    I don't know what you are trying to say with "Could you have printed these sheets for me, please?"

    Some possibilities are:

    "Could you please tell me whether you have printed these sheets for me?"

    "Could you please print these sheets for me?"

    "Please tell me: Could you have printed these sheets for me?"

    As a side note, I don't care much for that Butte College page .... not to mention that the web site doesn't even tell you where that junior college is located ... and it's not in Butte, Montana.
     
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    AntiScam

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Thanks for reply
    "Could you please print these sheets for me?"
    This is what I was trying to say. Of course, I could have said: "Could you print me these sheets for me please?", but I thought the page presented another polite use of "could" with "have + past participle".

    However, since I feel you disagree with my understanding to the point on that page, then I'd say it is a misunderstanding on my part to what is on the page.

    I see that your interpretation of the construction is as this quote from the page
    Could you have erased the disk? = Is it possible that you erased the disk?
    What caused the misunderstanding was "Is it possible that ..." segment but I think I get the meaning. However, how would I formulate a valid construction to express the interpreted part but with "Was it possible ...":
    ..................???........................ = Was it possible that you erased the disk?
    Hope I was clear enough
     
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