Is it okay to say: I'm going to go to the movies with him today, so I could've returned his pen then This is what I saw in a movie. <Chronological order> * I borrowed his pen yesterday * I promised this morning to go to the movies with him this evening * I had a business near his house at around lunch, so I tried stop by and return his pen along with it. * But I couldn't see him * I returned home and was reminded of that I had promised to meet him this evening * So I decided I'm going to give his pen to him when we meet at the movie place. And I say myself... "Oh, right... I'm going to go to the movies with him today, so I could've returned his pen then" Here, the thing bugs me is that why did 'I' use 'could have pp' instead of just 'could return'? Shouldn't it refer to the future event?
Oct 27, 2019 12:47 PM
Answers · 5
I can see how this mismatch of tenses is confusing. It's not impossible, though: you could say that if you had actually managed to return his pen to him at lunch time. In the scenario where the person already had his pen back, the possibility of returning the pen this evening at the cinema would, in fact, be a past conditional. This is because it's a hypothetical unreal situation based on something that happened in the past. So, during the afternoon, it would be correct to say " [If hadn't returned the pen at lunchtime..]..... I could've returned it this evening". Confusing as it sounds, this actually does make sense.
October 27, 2019
Yes, there is a contradiction in the verb tenses. It should say “so I can return his pen then,” or “so I will be able to return his pen then.”
October 27, 2019
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