1

I could stay with her, but didn't.
I could have stayed with her, but ........

First, Does the meaning differ?
And What are possible words for the blank space?

Another:

I could have gone to Oxford University but I preferred Harvard.
I could go to Oxford University but I preferred Harvard.

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I could stay with her, but I didn't.

This means I had the chance but I chose not to or had other things to do.

I could have stayed with her, but I hadn't.

This means I wanted to stay but there was not a chance for it.

These are similar to the construction of conditionals in English. I advise you to see them.

I could have gone to Oxford University but I had preferred Harvard.

I would use past perfect for consistency with the rule.

Here's a reference. https://www.englishgrammarsecrets.com/couldhave/menu.php

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  • 1
    "But I didn't" is OK, i dont see any conditional(if) clause here.
    – user178049
    Jan 21 '17 at 10:53
  • Hello again. essentially "I could stay with her, but i didn't." is a surface structure of "I could stay with her, if I (wanted, chose, .. etc.)". So you see "if" is not the only indicator of conditionals. I hope this answers your doubt.
    – M K
    Jan 21 '17 at 10:59
  • @MK In your source, the example is I could have gone to Oxford University but I preferred Harvard. Also, in the explanation, it's "We can use 'could have' to talk about something somebody was capable of doing but didn't do." rather than "hadn't done". Jan 21 '17 at 11:11
  • Not my source . It's a reference. And Past simple and past perfect in this case are interchangeable because they do not affect the meaning. But for one to be precise they should go by the rule past participle when the thing is not sure enough. It removes the ambiguity in the case of the first two examples. It's the rule whether you use it or not is a matter of convineince
    – M K
    Jan 21 '17 at 11:16
  • The question was exactly about the difference in meaning.
    – M K
    Jan 21 '17 at 11:17

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