Context : A guy wakes up and a girl tells him that he slept with her during the night (the girl is his friend). He denies this and says:

Since you've tempted me so much until now, I would've done everything I could imagine throughout the night, so there's no way you would be so energetic right now.

By could, does he mean everything he could (can) imagine (while he's speaking) or everything he could imagine during the night ? I know that sometimes we use could like can and I'm not sure which one is the correct one here.

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    Would have done places the action in an imagined past. Could is thus called for as the preterit of can. We would never use the present tense here. Jul 9, 2017 at 19:11
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    Could is always has the past tense form. But sometimes it's used to refer to present tense moments: Could you loan me a pen? Frankly, your text is not written very well. Using could have (imagined) goes better here, because of would have. Jul 10, 2017 at 0:02
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    Well it's not me the writer , it's from a novel that I was reading it's exactly how it was written, P. E. Dant answered my question therefore could in the text is about the past (He could imagine during the night) but I agree could have imagined is better (and more understandable for me as an english learner). Jul 10, 2017 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


In this context could doesn't refer to present tense.

I would've done everything I could imagine throughout the night.

He is talking about assumption and he uses could as the past tense of can.

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