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1) Yesterday I went to see my friend who lost her only son the day before in a car accident. Seeing me she started crying. I could imagine (at the time) what she was going through.

Is "could" OK? Or do we need "could have imagined" here?

"I could've imagined what she was going through."

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Hi

- I could imagine how that feels.

This kind of verb phrase is sometimes called stative. That means it describes a state of mind that is continuous. Therefore you do not need to give it a past tense - if you could imagine it then, you could imagine it now. You do not need to say 'could have'.

Hope this helps

Dave

PS This is just my point of view but, if a person has suffered a terrible tragedy, it is rarely good to say that you can imagine what they are going through. In reality, you almost certainly cannot imagine it:

- My thoughts and all my sympathy are with her right now. I can't begin to imagine what she is going through.

But that is a side matter and you must decide for yourself on that.

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dave_anon

Hi

- I could imagine how that feels.

This kind of verb phrase is sometimes called stative. That means it describes a state of mind that is continuous. Therefore you do not need to give it a past tense - if you could imagine it then, you could imagine it now. You do not need to say 'could have'.


Does "I could imagine" here imply the speaker actually did imagine something on some level?

Hi

That's a good question, and I did think about it when I answered before.

In English, we may say 'I could imagine what that feels like' and, as I said before, I would take it as a stative verb phrase which just means that you have a continuing state of understanding or sympathy with the situation. (A word often used here is 'empathy')

On the other hand, if I say 'Imagine a yellow taxi'. In that case, you may call the picture to your mind and, a little later, you have forgotten it. In that case, 'imagine' is not stative. It refers to a specific event and the usual tenses apply: 'He had imagined a yellow taxi.'

My feeling is that the example you gave is of the first kind. I don't think that any specific act of imagining takes place. Different people may have different views on this but, in answer to your question, I'd say no, I don't think the speaker did actually imagine something (in the second sense that I've described)

Hope this helps

Dave

dave_anon

Hi

That's a good question, and I did think about it when I answered before.

In English, we may say 'I could imagine what that feels like' and, as I said before, I would take it as a stative verb phrase which just means that you have a continuing state of understanding or sympathy with the situation. (A word often used here is 'empathy')

On the other hand, if I say 'Imagine a yellow taxi'. In that case, you may call the picture to your mind and, a little later, you have forgotten it. In that case, 'imagine' is not stative. It refers to a specific event and the usual tenses apply: 'He had imagined a yellow taxi.'

My feeling is that the example you gave is of the first kind. I don't think that any specific act of imagining takes place. Different people may have different views on this but, in answer to your question, I'd say no, I don't think the speaker did actually imagine something (in the second sense that I've described)

Hope this helps

Dave

That's a great explanation!! Thanks a lot.

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Hi, just one more question:

dave_anon

In English, we may say 'I could imagine what that feels like' and, as I said before, I would take it as a stative verb phrase which just means that you have a continuing state of understanding or sympathy with the situation. (A word often used here is 'empathy')


With the above meaning of "imagine", I think there's not much difference between "I can imagine how you feel right now" and "I could imagine how you feel right now". Am I right?

Hi

In that context, I'd say it makes little difference.

If you are using English very carefully, there is sometimes a small difference, although many people would not worry about it.

In some contexts, 'can' is used for the physical (or mental) ability to do something:

- I can lift that 60 kg weight.

On the other hand 'could' is used where you have social or legal permission to do something:

- If I resigned from my job, I could leave in two weeks' time.

It is also used for simpler cases where the thing hasn't happened yet ('hypotheticals'):

- He could fall off that ladder if he's not careful.

It is a fine difference, but that is sometimes how the two words are used. So, strictly, in the sentence you gave, and if you are being precise, 'can' is the better word. But, as said, many people would not see a difference, one way or the other.

Dave