I'm practicing modals, and in an exercise I had to fill in the correct form of the verb:

We couldn't _______ (go) to the concert anyway as Jamie wasn't very well.

I put in ‘go’ but the correct answer turns out to be ‘have gone’. The sentence was by itself. What's the intuition for that?

  • 2
    'Couldn't have' expresses past impossibility of an idea being true. Anyway is the clue, expressing finality. Nov 23, 2019 at 9:47
  • 4
    Not a very good exercise, as I can imagine circumstances in which someone might say either of those. "The concert was cancelled at the last minute because the soloist was ill, but we couldn't have gone anyway... " [even if it had gone ahead]. "I'm sorry you weren't able to get to the concert [where we had planned to meet], but we couldn't go anyway...". Nov 23, 2019 at 9:55
  • Kate - But, we know it's an exercise "practicing modals", and therefore probably not a time when someone might say the first. :p But yeah, both are "correct" in the sense of "sound like grammatical, intelligible English".
    – BadZen
    Nov 25, 2019 at 18:05
  • I'm not sure there's ever a difference between these two in modern, colloquial English (though they are technically different tenses). Can anyone think of an example where one is appropriate and the other is not?
    – BadZen
    Nov 25, 2019 at 18:09


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