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Could you tell me if I need to say I couldn't not do it or I couldn't have not done it?

My future career depended on the exam, so I couldn't not pass it.

My future career depended on the exam, so I couldn't have not passed it.

What I am trying to say is that I passed it because it was absolutely necessary.

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These structures have different meanings and to me, the second sentence is somewhat unnatural.

I couldn't not pass it. = I had to pass it (because my career depended on it).

I couldn't have not passed it = I passed it (because it so easy it was impossible to fail).

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  • I agree. These actually use different meanings of could: the first is necessity (could = must, had to). The second is ability (couldn't = wasn't able to). – Colin Fine Jul 11 at 23:30

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