Please explain the difference between "could have been" and "had been" in a sentence. For example what will be the difference in meaning between following two sentences:

  1. Had this painting been created by Leonardo da Vinci?
  2. Could this painting have been created by Leonardo da Vinci ?

Is there any difference between them?


In the first example you are looking for a precise answer, which would be "yes" or "no" if the person you are asking to has the knowledge, otherwise the answer would be "I don't know".

In the second example, the person you are asking the question to, won't necessarily give you an accurate response, since "could" does not express a general truth, being some of the possible answers: "It could be" "It could also be created by Rembrandt" And so on.

| improve this answer | |

Both sentences are possible but we need more context to see the exact reason for the use of the Past Perfect Simple in the first one (other than 'did he create it before some other event referred to by the speaker / writer').

The difference between them is, in practice, minimal but (again) we can't be sure without more context. Both are asking if Leonardo da Vinci created the painting, but the second one is emphasizing possibility by using 'could'.

| improve this answer | |

The first question is not grammatical. Had is not generally used to form a question like this; when it's used at the beginning of a sentence, it's usually to start a past conditional, e.g.

Had I known it was going to rain, I would have brought an umbrella.

The correct way to express that sentence is:

Was this painting created by Leonardo da Vinci?

Your second sentence is proper.

The difference between the two of them is that the first one asks about an actual occurrence -- either da Vinci created the painting or he didn't. Using Could have been in the second sentence makes it ask about a possibility, not an actuality. So if you don't know who painted it, but it looks like other da Vinci paintings, you might suppose that he could have painted it.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy