I am wondering whether I should use subjunctive mood in the dependent clause in the following example. Is there a rule for sentences like this? Or they just have different meanings?


There is a team that lost the championship. I think they should have hired me as a coach. Which one of the below sentences should I say?

1 (without subjunctive mood, just simple past, "could win")

"The team should have hired me as the coach so that they could win the championship."

2 (with subjunctive mood, "could have won")

"The team should have hired me as the coach so that they could have won the championship."

  • Where did you get the idea this is subjunctive? could win is conditional and could have won is past conditional.
    – Lambie
    Sep 19, 2019 at 15:22
  • Thank you for your answer. Actually, I am not quite sure what it is myself. I know "could have" can express a counterfactual idea in the past, but I am not sure whether "could win" can give the same idea also. That is why I ask the question. If you have time, could you shed some light on this one, thanks.
    – vincentlin
    Sep 19, 2019 at 16:55

1 Answer 1


1) so they could win the championship=it has not been played yet, future idea

2) so they could have won the championship=it has been played and they lost, past

present and past conditional, in 1) and 2) respectively

Please note: could win is not a past tense.

It is the present conditional tense: I could win, if I tried. The past of it is: I could have won if I had tried.

could win is not past, it is about a possibility.

  • I can win today. present tense
  • I could win tomorrow if I make a big effort. conditional tense, the idea is future.

This can be grasped if you read this:

  • I could win [it is a possibility] with a little help but I won't win because no one is helping me.
  • So in the context given, I should use 2), right? Because the team lost.
    – vincentlin
    Sep 19, 2019 at 16:51
  • Yes, if the team has already played and lost you use the past conditional.
    – Lambie
    Sep 19, 2019 at 17:04

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