Using Could Have & Couldn't Have - Past Modals In English

Nov 11, 2021

Today, we’re going to look at could have and couldn’t have. Your English teacher probably calls these past modals. In general, we use could have and couldn’t have to talk about what was or what was not possible in the past. Knowing this grammar is important for you to be able to communicate effectively in English. 

Here are some of the example sentences. To get the rest and the details of this English lesson, you need to listen to the podcast or get the transcript for the details.

Remember! The transcript package includes all of the Episodes, including this one.

  • I could have passed the exam.
  • Last night, I could-uh (could have) stayed up late, but I decided to go to bed early.
  • When I bought the car, the dealer could-uh (could have) charged the full price, but instead, she gave me a discount.
  • Dirk could have (could have) bought the book, but he borrowed it from the library instead.

  • I cooh-dih-nuh (couldn’t have) studied more because I had to work.
  • I cooh-dih-nuh (couldn’t have) gotten to work any earlier. There was an accident on the highway.
  • It’s too bad Jenny didn't come to dinner with us last night. She cooh-dih-nuh (couldn’t have) come because she had a Zoom meeting with a client in Taipei. 
  • He could-uh got stuck in traffic.
  • No way! He cooh-dih-nuh (couldn’t have) gotten stuck in traffic because he commutes by train. He could-uh
  • Nah, he cooh-dih-nuh (couldn’t have) overslept because he plays tennis every Thursday before work.

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