You could have told me!

Why couldn't she have said something?

Does 'could' here still indicate possibility? Is this even a legit question? Because no dictionary puts it in the 'past possibility' category.

Thanks. :-)

  • 1
    Yes, it indicates possibility. However, all it means is that the action was possible at the time. – Justin Apr 24 '20 at 12:52
  • 1
    You could offer that pregnant lady your seat! refers to an action that is possible at the time of speaking. Effectively, in the present tense you're being told you should do the specified action now, whereas the past tense version simply conveys the speaker's negative attitude to the fact that you failed to do what you should have done (even though it was actually possible at the time). – FumbleFingers Apr 24 '20 at 13:25
  • Thank you Justin and thank you Monica :-) – Nima Abna Apr 24 '20 at 16:30

This dictionary shows that sense of "could:
American Heritage Dictionary "could"

  1. Used to indicate ability or permission in the past: I could run faster then. Only men could go to the club in those days.

Changing "could" to "could have" just makes it perfect aspect. Whether it's expressing annoyance or not doesn't matter.


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