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What is the meaning of the below sentences?

a) Robin said it appeared that the intention of Lubitz had been "to destroy the aircraft".

b) The prosecutor said that this action could only have been "voluntary".

and if I say

a) Robin said it appeared that the intention of Lubitz was "to destroy the aircraft".

b) The prosecutor said that this action could only be "voluntary".

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  • What do you think the differences are based on what you know? If we know what is confusing you, it will help us to help you better.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 5:23
  • Hi Catija I have two sentences which conveys same meaning hence i m confused. Also what is the special meaning impact of Had/have been in my example.
    – user4084
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 7:05
  • Just an added note, this sort of quote usage requires that they be inside punctuation.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 7:17

1 Answer 1

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The first two imply that the action is finished while the bottom two imply that it is ongoing... case A is a bit more complicated because it's past tense and there's not as much difference between them so I'll use a similar example to case B that's a bit clearer:

The woman's hair could only have been "brown".

The hair was brown at some point in the past. Maybe she dyed it or it went grey but there's no requirement that it's still brown.

The woman's hair could only be "brown".

The hair is still brown. For some reason, the woman can not change her hair color.

I'll admit this is a bit absurd but it's the simplest way of showing the difference.

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