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Hi,

is there any difference between these two sentences?

1) I didn't think my parents could have done what they did.
2) I didn't think my parents could do what they did.

regards

Tarkowsky
New Member35
Hi,

is there any difference between these two sentences? Because they already did it, you seem to be talking about a possible repetition of the act. I'd add the word 'again' to both sentences. There are various positions possible for the word.

1) I didn't think my parents could again have done what they did. You don't think they could have repeated it at some time in the past.

2) I didn't think my parents could again do what they did. You don't think they could repeat it now or in the future.

Best wishes, Clive
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CliveHi,

is there any difference between these two sentences? Because they already did it, you seem to be talking about a possible repetition of the act. I'd add the word 'again' to both sentences. There are various positions possible for the word.

1) I didn't think my parents could again have done what they did. You don't think they could have repeated it at some time in the past.

2) I didn't think my parents could again do what they did. You don't think they could repeat it now or in the future.

Best wishes, Clive

Why do you need to put again in the sentence.

What about puting ever in?Does it make sense?

1) I didn't think my parents could have ever done what they did.

2) I didn't think my parents could ever do what they did.


You have a problem with whether it actually happened or not. If you continue to say "I don't think they could have done it" but you also say that "they did it" then there is a conflict.

I don't think my parents could ever have done what people are saying that they did. (They did or didn't, but you don't think they did.)

I didn't think my parents could ever do what they did. (They did it, but you didn't think (prior to their doing it) that they could have.)
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Hope Clive will correct me about the following...

Then they'll have different meanings.

Tarkowsky:
«What about puting ever in?Does it make sense?»

If we turn back to the moment which you refer to:

1) I don't think they can do it
2) I don't think they could have done it.

Your sentences are derived from them by tense-shifting.

In other words, in #1 your focus is their current ability to do it, while #2 is concerned with the possibility of their having done "it" in the past (prior to the moment of speech):

1. The yard-keeper could have stolen the case (somebody stole the case and the detective expresses a suggestion about who it could have been)

2. I think they could have visited us yesterday (but they didn't)
Contributing Member1,848
Grammar GeekYou have a problem with whether it actually happened or not. If you continue to say "I don't think they could have done it" but you also say that "they did it" then there is a conflict.

I don't think my parents could ever have done what people are saying that they did. (They did or didn't, but you don't think they did.)

I didn't think my parents could ever do what they did. (They did it, but you didn't think (prior to their doing it) that they could have.)

I got your point perfectly.

But in my first sentences there was no ever or again. Do we have to put them in to make the sentences understandable?

Would the sentences be grammatically incorrect without them?
No, there's the same problem.

I don't think they could have done what they did.

If you believe they did it (and you must, because you use the phrase "they did") then you can be expressing you belief that they can't in the present.

Either you disbelief is in the past (I didn't think) because now you admit/know that they did it, or you need to quauntify "they did it" with something like "what people are saying they did." The very fact that you write "What they did" says that you believe that they did it.
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Grammar GeekNo, there's the same problem.

I don't think they could have done what they did.

If you believe they did it (and you must, because you use the phrase "they did") then you can be expressing you belief that they can't in the present.

Either you disbelief is in the past (I didn't think) because now you admit/know that they did it, or you need to quauntify "they did it" with something like "what people are saying they did." The very fact that you write "What they did" says that you believe that they did it.

I Think I've understood the first part of your reasoning.I am not so sure about the second part which refers to the past.

If the situation is the same it will be enough to put your first sentence in the past.Let's do it:

present tense--I don't think they could have done what they did.

past tense--I didn't't think they could have done what they had done.

The resulting sentence makes sense but seem a bit different from the original one (I didn't't think they could have done what they did.).

It's seems that the relation between tenses (consecutio temporalis) is not the same.Does it matter?

Hi,

present tense--I don't think they could have done what they did.

past tense--I didn't't think they could have done what they had done.

Do you know the expression 'You are tying yourself up in knots'? It means you are making things very confusing for yourself (as well as for us). Emotion: smile

If you say either of these sentences to a native speaker, you will get a response like 'Huh? What are you talking about?'

The bottom line is that these sentences are all problematic because you are telling us that 'they did it'. In your statements, there is no 'maybe', there is no 'people just say they did it', no 'I don't think they did it'.

Best wishes, Clive
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