She can't have been feeling very well to have left(...)

Krybro

Senior Member
Polish
"She can't have been feeling very well to have left the party so early" This is a sentence from one of my English textbooks.
Shouldn't it be something like:
1) She can't have been feeling very well since/as/because she left the party so early.
2) She can't have been feeling very well having left the party so early.

The original sentence just sounds really bad to me.
 
  • Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo, Kry.

    My impression is that the speaker in the sentence in your book is attributing a low degree on probability of truth to the relation SHE/BE FEELING VERY WELL by means of a negated epistemic CAN:

    "She can't (have been feeling very well)... "

    I feel the speaker's point of view would've been more aptly expressed by means of epistemic MUST and a negative predicate:

    "She must (not have been feeling very well) ...

    GS :)
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    "She can't have been feeling very well to have left the party so early" This is a sentence from one of my English textbooks.
    Shouldn't it be something like:
    1) She can't have been feeling very well since/as/because she left the party so early.
    2) She can't have been feeling very well having left the party so early.

    The original sentence just sounds really bad to me.
    It's not at all odd. That is not an unusual way to link cause and effect. The structure is speculative - that is, the speaker is making an assumption about the cause.
    "I think that she was not feeling very well and that explains why she left the party so early."
    Your sentence 1 is a possible alternative. Your sentence 2 does not work because we do not use the participle in this structure.

    I don't know why Giorgio thinks the use of 'can't' implies a low degree of probability. It doesn't, and it's not normal to use 'must not' in this structure. That's not the case when there is a positive statement, where we do use 'must' and not 'can': "She must have felt very ill to leave the party so early."
     

    Giorgio Spizzi

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Hullo, Andych.

    You're perfectly right in reminding me that the use of must not in these cases is not normal.

    As for the degree of probability of occurrence of an event/truth of a state of things, etc., my impression is that "can't" (the negated modal) is specialized in the expression of the speaker's conviction that the predicate is very improbable or outright impossible. E.g.:

    "Come on, I've known Jill for ages—she can't have done that!"

    Back to the original sentence proposed by Krybro, maybe a better option would've been:

    "She must have been feeling *..." or " Most probably she felt *...".

    What's your impression?

    GS :)

    * adjective with negative connotations
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Context, GS. :)

    "Come on, I've known Jill for ages—she can't have done that!" Because I know her character well, I do not believe she could have done that.

    "She can't have been feeling very well to have left the party so early" I think the most likely reason for her leaving early was that she wasn't feeling well.

    The first uses can't in relation to denying what she is supposed to have done. The second uses can't to provide the reason for what she did do.
     
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