Those commemorated on a war memorial can have died in action

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http://www.warmemorials.org/uploads/publications/53.pdf

"War memorials can commemorate individuals as well as groups of people.Those commemorated on a war memorial can have died in action, in war time accidents and friendly fire, or can have died of wounds or diseases either during or subsequent to a conflict. War memorials can commemorate those who served during a war and survived."

http://www.loveden.org.uk/bramford.html

"It's not clear how Archie can have died in Hong Kong whilst his unit was in Bombay, but we can speculate that he may have been captured by the Japanese whilst fighting in Burma."
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I've seen you say you don't use "can have p.p." for speculation or deduction in the past . Most of you said "can have p.p." is grammatically wrong in the past affirmative. Confer this link. http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=1179841

If so, could you tell me why the author used "can have died" instead of "could have died", "must have died", or "died"?

Any comments would be appreciated.
 
  • George French

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    Why do so many proofreaders or editors make the same mistakes like that? The result is so confusing to me as a non-native speaker.
    Because many of us do say and write things like this. Even trying to check why it is "wrong" is not an easy task... For example, ask yourself what is the infinitive of can?

    GF..

    Auxiliary verbs are not that easy for native speakers to use correctly....

    This is one of the areas of English where one can easily make mistakes.. and we can easily get confused as well.....

    http://dictionary.reverso.net/english-definition/can "takes an infinitive without: to or an implied infinitive, used as an auxiliary"
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Note that the large number of results does not mean "can have died" is used in this weird manner that many times. On the first page of results I have found these, entirely normal uses of "can have died":

    It is not clear how Archie can have died in Hong Kong whilst his unit was in Bombay...
    What she can have died of and why and so on.
    Whoever can have died?”
     
    Note that the large number of results does not mean "can have died" is used in this weird manner that many times. On the first page of results I have found these, entirely normal uses of "can have died":

    It is not clear how Archie can have died in Hong Kong whilst his unit was in Bombay...
    What she can have died of and why and so on.
    Whoever can have died?”
    What does "entirely normal uses of 'can have died'" mean here? Could you explain it more easily? I don't follow you.
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    There are contexts in which the series of words "can have died" is correct. The context in your initial post is very odd, indeed the native speakers who have replied to your thread feel that it is incorrect (I would at least say it is very unnatural in modern English).

    The examples I have given from the first page of Google results are correct and natural uses of "can have died".
     
    There are contexts in which the series of words "can have died" is correct. The context in your initial post is very odd, indeed the native speakers who have replied to your thread feel that it is incorrect (I would at least say it is very unnatural in modern English).

    The examples I have given from the first page of Google results are correct and natural uses of "can have died".
    You said the first sentence is quite right, then what's the difference of meaning between 1 and 2?
    Are there any other usages for "can have p.p. except for possibility or speculation in the past?

    1. It is not clear how Archie can have died in Hong Kong whilst his unit was in Bombay...

    2. It is not clear how Archie have died in Hong Kong whilst his unit was in bombay...
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Well. That's hard, because sentence 2 is incorrect. :(

    Sentence one means, basically, that the reason why Archie died in Hong Kong while his unit was in Bombay is unknown.

    Another paraphrase: It is not clear how come Archie died in Hong Kong... (This version is a little more colloquial than the original).
     
    Well. That's hard, because sentence 2 is incorrect. :(

    Sentence one means, basically, that the reason why Archie died in Hong Kong while his unit was in Bombay is unknown.

    Another paraphrase: It is not clear how come Archie died in Hong Kong... (This version is a little more colloquial than the original).
    Thanks for all your kind replies.^^

    My intention was to identify the meanings of "can have died" and "died". Now I understand you put "can" because the situation is unknown or uncertain.
    Another question. Can I put "could" instead of "can" here?
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    I was thinking about that myself as I wrote my previous post. The thing is, Archie did die in Hong Kong. The doubt is about how that happened when his unit was elsewhere at the time, not about whether or not he died. To me, using "could" instead of "can" brings in some element of doubt about whether he really did die in Hong Kong.

    I could be wrong, though!
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    'Can have died' is correct in the contexts given in the original post.
    These examples deal with factual possibility in a present perspective.
    You can check the meaning by rewriting the sentence, using the phrase 'it is possible that...'

    'Those commemorated on a war memorial can have died in action...'
    'It is possible that those commemorated on a war memorial have died in action...'

    'It's not clear how Archie can have died in Hong Kong...'
    'It is not clear how it is possible that Archie has died in Hong Kong...'
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    "It is not clear how Archie can have died in Hong Kong whilst his unit was in Bombay..." is a correct use, but would be better written,

    It is not clear how Archie was able to die in Hong Kong whilst his unit was in Bombay...

    The sense here is not the same as that on the War Memorial; on the War Memorial, we would not say, "Those commemorated on a war memorial were able to die in action,"

    can should always be able to be replaced by the phrasal verb, "to be able to"
     
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