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1) "As we walked through Facebook and Twitter, I could imagine myself sitting there coding throughout the day," she said. "I'm not afraid to be one of the first girls to go into one of those fields. I want to pursue this career and maybe a CEO of a company".

2) So it looks like I've got a ten-year lag between living in a place and writing about it. In ten years, I might try to write something about China. Really in all my life I've never seen anything like it. I could imagine myself writing about some New Jersey Dominican guy, doing the English-teaching expat thing in Shanghai. Maybe. I'm sure it would be really, really bad, too. (https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/this-week-in-fiction-questions-for-junot-daz)


Q: a) It seems to me that "could imagine" in (1) is different from that in (2). In (1), the "could" appears to mean "was able to", indicating past tense, whereas the "could" in (2) is more likely to have hypothetical meaning, indicating present tense. Is my understanding correct?

b) Does "could imagine" in (1) suggest she actually imagined that?

"As we walked through Facebook and Twitter, I imagined myself sitting there coding throughout the day," she said

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papaya walk 536Q: a) It seems to me that "could imagine" in (1) is different from that in (2). In (1), the "could" appears to mean "was able to", indicating past tense, whereas the "could" in (2) is more likely to have hypothetical meaning, indicating present tense. Is my understanding correct?

That's how I read it too.

papaya walk 536b) Does "could imagine" in (1) suggest she actually imagined that?" As we walked through Facebook and Twitter, I imagined myself sitting there coding throughout the day," she said

"I imagined" describes a plain action, while "I could imagine" has extra connotations, e.g. emphasising capability in a context where this might have been doubted/uncertain. E.g. the writer and/or others might not have been sure if girls wanted to do that work, but in fact, yes, she could imagine doing it.

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papaya walk 536b) Does "could imagine" in (1) suggest she actually imagined that?" As we walked through Facebook and Twitter, I imagined myself sitting there coding throughout the day," she said

"I imagined" describes a plain action, while "I could imagine" has extra connotations, e.g. emphasising capability in a context where this might have been doubted/uncertain. E.g. the writer and/or others might not have been sure if girls wanted to do that work, but in fact, yes, she could imagine doing it.

One more question, please:

The only way that you know that you are able to imagine something is to imagine that thing. If you imagine it, it proves that you are able to imagine it.

Q: Do you agree with the above statement? I mean, consider these sentences, please:

1) "It's so exciting, and I can imagine myself doing it my whole life".

2) "Tongue in cheek, I can imagine myself having ended up as one of the Jewish-American writers of Russian background writing mostly about the neuroses of immigrants and their offspring," he said.

3) I can imagine you're hungry, right?

4) I can't imagine living in Canada. I hate the cold.

5) Can you imagine how angry I was when he said that?

6) I can imagine it must have been difficult for you.

7) I can't imagine she would have arrived yet.

In all of them, does "I can imagine..." imply the speaker is imagining those things as they speak?

papaya walk 536In all of them, does "I can imagine..." imply the speaker is imagining those things as they speak?

Not necessarily. Generally speaking, this seems indeterminate or context-dependent. In a case such as "I'm thinking about lying on that beach. I can imagine it right now", clearly the speaker is visualising lying on the beach as they speak. On the other hand, in your example "I can imagine it must have been difficult for you", the phrase "I can imagine" is almost a fixed phrase meaning "I understand/appreciate", or something like that, not necessarily implying that the speaker is "imagining" anything right now, not in the sense of visualising.