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Hi,

1. I got into an accident that could kill me.
2. I have gotten into an accident that could have killed me.

Are both sentences correct and have the same meaning ?
Comments  
heloOOAre both sentences correct and have the same meaning ?
No. You need the second one.

I may get into an accident that could kill me. (future)
I [got / have gotten] into an accident that could have killed me.
(past)

An accident that could kill you is an accident that has not yet happened.
An accident that could have killed you is an accident that has already happened.

CJ
Also try to avoid using "got"/"get" if possible such as "get up", "get home", "get into", "get mad", etc., etc. In your sentences, you could rewrite them to use "involved".
Chris
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CalifJim
heloOOAre both sentences correct and have the same meaning ?
No. You need the second one.

I may get into an accident that could kill me. (future)
I [got / have gotten] into an accident that could have killed me.
(past)

An accident that could kill you is an accident that has not yet happened.
An accident that could have killed you is an accident that has already happened.

CJ

Hi,

1. If 'could' here means the past tense of 'can', doesn't 'an accident that could kill' mean an accident that has happened?
2. Or is it because 'could kill' can be either past tense or a possibility in the future that we should use 'could have killed' ?
3. For this sentence, 'I bought a car that could have cost much more'. Is 'could have cost much more' talking about a fact in the past with respect to the time 'I bought a car' or when the whole sentence is said? In other words, is it 'cost much more' compared to the present day or the time I bought the car ??
heloOO1. If 'could' here means the past tense of 'can', doesn't 'an accident that could kill' mean an accident that has happened?
IF it means the past tense of 'can', yes. But it doesn't mean the past tense of 'can'. It means "would be able to" or "possibly would".
heloOO2. Or is it because 'could kill' can be either past tense or a possibility in the future that we should use 'could have killed' ?
Not really. The reason for using 'could have killed' is that 'could have killed' means what you want to communicate, not because other forms ('could') can mean various things. Words that don't mean what you want to communicate are usually irrelevent.
heloOO3. For this sentence, 'I bought a car that could have cost much more'. Is 'could have cost much more' talking about a fact in the past with respect to the time 'I bought a car' or when the whole sentence is said?
With respect to the time you bought the car. (But it could still have cost much more even at the time the sentence was said.)
heloOOIn other words, is it 'cost much more' compared to the present day or the time I bought the car ??
In other words, the time you bought the car.
____

There is frequently confusion among learners -- and I think you are experiencing this now -- between the non-past and past forms can and could and another set of non-past and past forms could and could have. The first set is for real situations, and the second set is for hypothetical situations.

I can touch the ceiling of this room.
(I have an ability.)
Even when I was only 12 years old I could touch the ceiling of this room.
(I had an ability.)

I could touch the ceiling if I tried. (I would be able to succeed. / I would succeed.)
I could have touched the ceiling if I had tried.
(I would have been able to succeed. / I would have succeeded.)

The possibility of an accident is hypothetical, and so is the possibility of buying a car at a price different from the price you actually paid.

Besides, we don't normally talk about this particular ability: the ability to have an accident.

If I say I can have an accident, I'm saying that I have the skill and the knowledge to have an accident. Such a remark (I can have an accident) is anomalous, because accidents are caused when we fail to excercise our skill and knowledge.

That's why I could have an accident would not be taken by a native speaker as the past of I can have an accident. It would be like saying When I was younger I had the skill and knowledge to have an accident any time I wanted to.Emotion: smile

I could have an accident is therefore taken to mean It would be possible for an accident to happen to me.

CJ
heloOO3. For this sentence, 'I bought a car that could have cost much more'. Is 'could have cost much more' talking about a fact in the past with respect to the time 'I bought a car' or when the whole sentence is said?
With respect to the time you bought the car. (But it could still have cost much more even at the time the sentence was said.)

I am still not sure about this. Consider the following:

1. He talked as if he were a kid. ( but he was not a kid at the moment he talked )
2. He talked as if he had been a kid. ( but he was not a kid at some point in time before he talked )
3. I was involved in an accident that could kill me. ( but I didn't die at the moment I had the accident )

As CJ has explained, 'could kill' doesn't make sense in sentence 3. But sentence 3 has almost the same pattern as sentence 1, which is why I think that sentence 3 could be correct. Does that mean sentence 1 is wrong ?
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I was involved in an accident that could kill me.

The sentence above makes sense only in the reading that the accident has already happened, and because of it, your health is now so precarious that you might die at any time (now or in the future). So, with this (much less likely) interpretation, the sentence is just possible.

(This is not the original sentence you asked about, by the way. I got into an accident vs. I was involved in an accident. The first suggests much more strongly that you were severely hurt at the time of the accident and that you may have caused the accident.)

But neither of your other examples contain could, and they use the adverbial expression as if, while the sentence above uses a relative clause (adjectival) modifying accident, so I don't see the comparison. Emotion: sad

CJ
CalifJimI was involved in an accident that could kill me.

The sentence above makes sense only in the reading that the accident has already happened, and because of it, your health is now so precarious that you might die at any time (now or in the future). So, with this (much less likely) interpretation, the sentence is just possible.

(This is not the original sentence you asked about, by the way. I got into an accident vs. I was involved in an accident. The first suggests much more strongly that you were severely hurt at the time of the accident and that you may have caused the accident.)

But neither of your other examples contain could, and they use the adverbial expression as if, while the sentence above uses a relative clause (adjectival) modifying accident, so I don't see the comparison.

CJ

Ok, I thought they were the same because all of them are talking about unreal conditionals. It seems that present unreal conditionals in relative clauses refer to the present time and onwards, while present unreal conditionals with adverbial expressions depend on when the verb happens??

For e.g,
1. He talked as if he could fly. ( present unreal conditional - 'as if' modifies 'talked'' here so 'he could not fly' with respect to the time the verb 'talked' happened )
2. He got into an accident that could kill him. ( present unreal conditional - 'could' in relative clauses refer to the present day and onwards ,that is 'could not kill him' from today onwards. )
3. He got into an accident that could have killed him (Similarly, in relative clauses, we use 'could have killed' because 'he didn't die' with respect to the present day.)