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Why couldn't I have just let those guys continue to terrorize Brooklyn untill I built up the nerve to ask out a girl?

(Context: It is ironic. He just solved the case. But before solving the case he should have asked a girl out but he couldn't stop himself from solving the case :), therefore he can't ask the girl out right now.)

Why did he use "could have + past participle" form here? Can we use just "couldn't" in the sentence? What is the difference between them?

Why couldn't I just let those guys continue to terrorize Brooklyn untill I built up the nerve to ask out a girl?

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As with most uses of the past perfect (and many other questions of tense in English) either is possible, and the (slight) difference is in the temporal viewpoint or focus.

With "Why couldn't I have just let", the temporal focus is at the time of the (hypothetical) point of asking the girl, and is looking backward over the build-up.

With "Why couldn't I just let" there is no particular temporal focus set.

The difference comes if the speaker continues the (hypothetical) narrative. If he continues with "I would ... ", then in the first case, this probably follows, or is part of, asking out the girl. In the second case, it could be during the time he was letting the guys continue to terrorize.

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