recommend that couldn't

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norwolf

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi, teachers.

I once learnt the recommend that-clauses can follow past/present form verbs this way:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv201.shtml
quote:
Cambridge-English Advanced Grammar in Use1999:
In less formal contexts we can use ordinary tenses instead of the subjunctive. Compare:
They recommended that he should give up writing.
They recommended that he give up writing, (more formal)
They recommended that he gives up writing, (less formal)
Notice also:
They recommended that he gave up writing. (= he gave it up)
A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language1985
The report recommended that education for the over-sixteens should be improved.
The report recommended that education for the over-sixteens be improved.
The report recommended that education for the over-sixteens ought to be improved.
He was very reluctant to leave, but I recommended that he went.
The employees have demanded that the manager resign.
The employees have demanded that the manager should resign.
The employees have demanded that the manager resigns.
The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language2002
It is essential that everyone attend the meeting.
It is essential that everyone should attend the meeting.
It is essential that everyone attends the meeting.

Oxford Guide to English Grammar1994
NOTE
It often makes no difference whether a form is subjunctive or not.
We recommend that both schemes go ahead.


But someone is strongly against the following sentence:
The doctor recommended that you couldn’t swim after eating a large meal.


I am confused whether he/she or I am wrong. Can't we take it as the indicative?
If not, why? What is the difference between the last one and the others?
Could you please explain something to me?
Big regards.
 
  • Majorbloodnock

    Senior Member
    British English
    "The doctor recommended that you couldn’t swim after eating a large meal" doesn't make logical sense. "Couldn't" suggests that, at that time in the past, you were unable to do something, and you can't recommend that someone is unable to do something.

    However, if you said "The doctor recommended that you couldn’t shouldn't swim after eating a large meal", that makes better sense. You ought not to do it, and that is what the doctor is telling you, but you still have the option of ignoring the advice.
     

    norwolf

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    "The doctor recommended that you couldn’t swim after eating a large meal" doesn't make logical sense. "Couldn't" suggests that, at that time in the past, you were unable to do something, and you can't recommend that someone is unable to do something.

    However, if you said "The doctor recommended that you couldn’t shouldn't swim after eating a large meal", that makes better sense. You ought not to do it, and that is what the doctor is telling you, but you still have the option of ignoring the advice.
    Of course not. And we never treat can as be allowed to in such a sentence instead of be able to, right, dear Majorbloodnock?
     

    Majorbloodnock

    Senior Member
    British English
    On the contrary, we certainly can treat "can" as "be allowed to". However, if your doctor is saying "you're not allowed to", she's not recommending so much as ordering. That's why the original sentence doesn't make logical sense.

    If you wanted to change this to an order or a directive, you would be saying "The doctor told you that you couldn't swim after eating a large meal".
     
    Last edited:

    Majorbloodnock

    Senior Member
    British English
    As has been pointed out in plenty of recent threads, journalists working for even well respected publications have just as many bad habits as the rest of us. The Time Magazine quote doesn't make logical sense, although most people reading it will recognise what the author meant.
     

    norwolf

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    As has been pointed out in plenty of recent threads, journalists working for even well respected publications have just as many bad habits as the rest of us. The Time Magazine quote doesn't make logical sense, although most people reading it will recognise what the author meant.
    Someone said could sounded might, to my ear, which makes sense.
    Thank you so much, Majorbloodnock.
     
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