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In the question "Could the Space Shuttle have landed on any long runway other than those specially reinforced at Kennedy (TTS), and Edwards (EDW)?" The first part of the sentence has me scratching my head with the multipart verbs (I think have landed forms a multipart verb)

The question may be rephrased without the multipart verbs as "Could the Space Shuttle land on any long runway other than those ...?"

OR

"Could the Space Shuttle land on a long runway other than those ...?"

Similar constructs occur in daily life often enough here on the sub-continent. For instance - "have ended", "has brought", "will be bringing", and so on

Is the construction correct as it stands? Are there any guidelines on when & how to use multipart verbs?

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    Do you have a clear idea what a phrasal verb is? have eaten, has landed, were not happy - aren't they more aptly called verb phrases? Verb phrases and phrasal verbs are not the same. Please the check the meaning of phrasal verb aka multiword verb aka multipart verb : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrasal_verb . Please enlighten me. – Blessed Geek May 20 '14 at 5:19
  • auxiliary verb : a verb used in forming the tenses, moods, and voices of other verbs. – Kris May 20 '14 at 5:49
  • Please visit English Language Learners – Kris May 20 '14 at 5:50
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  • 1.a) "Could the Space Shuttle have landed on any long runway other than those specially reinforced at Kennedy (TTS), and Edwards (EDW)?" -- [interrogative]

Your example is an interrogative clause. Perhaps if you look at the corresponding declarative clause version, things might seem clearer to you:

  • 1.b) "The Space Shuttle could have landed on any long runway other than those specially reinforced at Kennedy (TTS), and Edwards (EDW)." - [declarative]

It might be easier for you to analyze the declarative version as to its syntax form. For instance: a modal auxiliary verb ("could") is involved, as is a perfect construction ("have landed").

Your other suggested interrogative clause version--the one with the perfect construction removed--has a different interpretation from the first interrogative version; and so, if we look at its corresponding declarative version:

  • 2.a) "Could the Space Shuttle land on any long runway other than those specially reinforced at Kennedy (TTS), and Edwards (EDW)?" -- [interrogative]

  • 2.b) "The Space Shuttle could land on any long runway other than those specially reinforced at Kennedy (TTS), and Edwards (EDW)." - [declarative]

and then, if you compare the two declarative clauses against each other--#1.b vs #2.b--then, the difference in meaning will probably become obvious to you:

  • 1.b) "The Space Shuttle could have landed on any long runway other than those specially reinforced at Kennedy (TTS), and Edwards (EDW)." - [declarative]

  • 2.b) "The Space Shuttle could land on any long runway other than those specially reinforced at Kennedy (TTS), and Edwards (EDW)." - [declarative]

So, both sets of sentences are fine and grammatical. But their meanings are different, due to the presence or absence of the perfect construction.

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The construction is correct and means something different than the one you have. Could have is the past conditional, also known as the third conditional, where an action could have, may have, might have happened if the condition had been met. You can read more on third conditional in any grammar book. It's a very basic concept.

Here's an example:

He could have worked hard to get to Harvard. He didn't work hard, so he didn't get into Harvard.

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  • May have VERBen is not a conditional/irrealis/subjunctive but a modal present perfect. And could/might/should/would have VERBen are usually past conditional/irrealis/subjunctive, but sometimes are modal past perfects and sometimes are modal present perfects! – StoneyB on hiatus May 26 '14 at 20:14
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The space shuttles don't take off to space anymore, so they can't land on any runway in the present. That's why only the past conditional "could have landed" is appropriate. It is a conjecture/question about the past only.

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