Harry Potter Harry did some very amazing thing. Pro. McGonagall complimented him.

"He caught that thing in his hand after a fifty-foot dive," Professor McGonagall told Wood. "Didn't even scratch himself. Charlie Weasley couldn't have done it."

Why does here use "couldn't have done"?

What is the different meaning if here use "couldn't do it"?

could vs could have doesn't resolve my confusion.

could means was able to
could have means was capable of, but didn't do.

But my question is Couldn't. They both means "wasn't able to" or "was incapable of", of course include "didn't do".

That means they are the same meaning?

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of " could " vs. " could have "
    – Cardinal
    May 16, 2019 at 2:35
  • 1
    @Cardinal, Please don't close this. I really need this answer. This confused my many years.
    – Zhang
    May 16, 2019 at 3:16
  • Hello Zhang, I just flagged this question because it already has an answer. Please read that question and its answer, you will figure out the difference. That answer is really good.
    – Cardinal
    May 16, 2019 at 3:20
  • 1
    @Cardinal, I have explained, that answer didn't resove my confusion.
    – Zhang
    May 16, 2019 at 3:32
  • 2
    I see your point. That's just the negative form of it, that means Weasley was never able to pull it off even if he would want to give it a try. It's a very definite statement about not being able to do something.
    – Cardinal
    May 16, 2019 at 3:48

1 Answer 1


In this case, both "couldn't have done" and "couldn't do" would be acceptable in the sentence. Their meanings, however, are slightly different. "Couldn't have done" is in the past tense; "couldn't do" is in the present or future tense. The distinction becomes significant if we consider the context of the statement; Charlie Weasley was Gryfindor's star seeker some years before; we are even told at one point that the house hasn't won the quidditch cup since he left. Thus, the tense of the statement is important both in the literal sense (Charlie is now busy working with dragons, and his skills have in all likelihood deteriorated significantly) and the practical (Charlie is no longer on hand to catch snitches or rememberalls).

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