1) Schools could ensure that motivated students participated.

2) Teachers could ensure that children gain more from working together.

Sentence 1 is about a hypothetical scenario in the future. This is why we have "could ensure" and "participated", but I saw sentence 2. It has "could ensure" but with the verb "gain".

Why is this? What is the difference in the meaning? If it not a hypothetical scenario in the future , why did the writer bring "could ensure"?

  • On its own, as a complete sentence, your first example is in the past tense. – Matt Jan 1 '19 at 16:33

You have two different meanings of could.

In the first, it is the past of can, and this is either hypothetical in the present, or actual in the past (past of "Schools can ensure that motivated students participate")

In the second, because of the present verb in the dependent clause, this cannot be past, so it involves what is now a separate meaning of could: a more tentative or more dubious version of can: something like "teachers might be able to ensure".

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