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[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h3″ accent=”true”]Using Could Have[/custom_headline]

In this lesson, we will look at the grammar pattern you need to know to use could have and how we use could have to make a logical deduction or conclusion.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Grammar Pattern[/custom_headline]

The grammar pattern is could have followed by a past participle verb:

  • I could have eaten the whole cake.
  • I could have gone to the beach.
  • There could have been an accident.

The negative form is could not have followed by a past participle verb. We usually use the contracted form which is couldn’t have:

  • There couldn’t have been an accident.
  • Kim couldn’t have helped me.
  • They couldn’t have had trouble at the airport.

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Usage Part 1[/custom_headline]

One way that we use could have is when we make a guess about something that happened in the past.
Imagine you have a coworker, Jack, who didn’t come to work and didn’t call. You could make a guess with could have:

  • I know he went to the bar last night, so he could have forgotten to set his alarm clock.
  • Jack could have gotten caught in traffic and he doesn’t have his phone.
  • He could have won the lottery and decided not to come to work anymore!
  • What is your guess about Jack? He could have…

[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”true”]Usage Part 2[/custom_headline]

Directions: Are you a good detective? Here is a mystery for you to solve using could have or couldn’t have. Read the story and then answer the questions.

[block_grid type=”two-up”] [block_grid_item]A college girl is missing. She was a typical girl from a nice family in the city. She had a lot of friends at her school and on her swimming team. She had a boyfriend too, but he was in a rock and roll band, and her parents were not so happy with him. She has a part time job at fast food restaurant and works the night shift there Monday through Friday until 9pm. Last night was Thursday and her boyfriend picked her up from work and they went to the bar. She got home around 11:30pm. She left her house on Friday morning at the usual time but she never arrived at her school. The weather was nice that day. The sky was blue and sunny. A few people in the town reported seeing strange flashes of light in the sky near the lake around 11am. She didn’t go to work and her parents were worried. They called the police. The police started looking for her and on Saturday, they found her shoes by the lake.[/block_grid_item] [block_grid_item]

Credit: Pius Winteler / CC BY-SA creativecommons.org
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Here are some ideas that the police have. Do you agree or disagree with them? Explain why using could have or couldn’t have.

  • Write your answers in the space below the questions.
  • Then click the [x_highlight type=”dark” style=”text-shadow: none; color: white; background-color: #3974d2;”]CHECK IT[/x_highlight] button to see the example answers.

Example: She could have gotten lost. She couldn’t have gotten lost because she was in a familiar area.

  1. She could have gone swimming and drowned.
  2. She could have runaway with her boyfriend to get married in Las Vegas.
  3. She could have gotten sick from eating the food in her restaurant and went to the hospital emergency room.
  4. She could have gotten kidnapped by aliens.