I thought of you as everything I've had but could not keep

Lou Reed: Pale Blue Eyes

Is could past simple or conditional? I think it is past simple because have had means I've just lost you.

  • 2
    You understand this correctly. You may paraphrase it as "everything which I've ever had but was unable to keep". Mar 30, 2016 at 10:51
  • So i am a bit surprised why it is not had had Can we say I ve had this camera for ten weeks when I sold it
    – Yves Lefol
    Mar 30, 2016 at 14:41
  • The verbforms are ambiguous. In the original recording by the Velvet Underground there is no "I" at the head of this line, and in later performances Reed himself sings "I've thought of you", not "I thought of you". The key thing is that the woman addressed, whom the singer appears to have regarded previously as something he had that he could keep, has now entered the category of things he has had and could not keep. ... And No, your camera sentence is not grammatical. Mar 30, 2016 at 15:29
  • So that is why he uses past simple for could .He realised that this love is ending or has just ended and that this love belongs ALREADY to the past for him.
    – Yves Lefol
    Mar 30, 2016 at 16:43
  • "Could" is only conditional in a conditional construction. The sentence you quote is not a conditional construction. Here, "could" talks about past ability, similar to wasn't able to keep. Jul 2, 2016 at 4:51

1 Answer 1


Is could past simple or conditional?

As @StoneyB relates in his comment, you are correct that this is the past simple form of the word can.

Can we say "I've had this camera for ten weeks when I sold it?"

No, this in ungrammatical. As the process of you having the camera stops at that given point in the past when you sold it, using the present perfect tense is inappropriate. Ditch the contracted have to fix it and you'd be fine:

I had the camera for ten weeks when I sold it.

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