What's the Difference between COULD HAVE and COULD HAVE BEEN?

by Vivek
(Panipat, India)

What's the Difference between COULD HAVE and COULD HAVE BEEN?


Could have

"Could have" can be used with several meanings.

1) To describe something you were able to do, but didn't do.


I could have phoned, but I preferred to talk to you personally.
(= I was able to phone, but I didn't.)

She could have won the competition, but in the end she gave up.
(She was able to win the competition, but she didn't.)

You could have passed the test if you had studied for it.
(You were able to pass the test, but you didn't.)

2) To describe something that was possible, but didn't happen.


You could have dropped all the plates. Be more careful next time.
(= There was a possibility of dropping all the plates, but it didn't happen.)

He could have broken his leg. It's good you were there to catch him.
(= There was a possibility of him breaking his leg, but it didn't happen.)

She could have lost her job if they had found out.
(= There was a possibility of her losing her job, but it didn't happen.)

3) To think what happened without knowing for sure.

I'm not sure why he's so late. He could have missed the bus.
(= The speculation: he missed the bus, but it's not known for sure.)

They didn't know why the shipment hasn't arrived yet. They said it could have gone to the wrong address.
(= The speculation: it went to the wrong address, but it's not known for sure.)

What could have gone wrong?
(= In other words, can you think of what went wrong?)

Could have been

"Could have been" = could have + the verb BE.
(Here the verb BE is in its third form, also called: past participle)


I could have been there on time if I had left home earlier.
(= It was possible for me to be there on time, but it didn't happen.)

They could have been married if he hadn't cheated on her.
(= It was possible for them to be married, but it didn't happen.)

I don't know why she didn't read it. That page could have been missed.
(= The speculation: the page was missed, but it's not known for sure.)

See also:

English Conditionals

Indicative Mood, Imperative Mood and Subjunctive Mood

English Modal Verbs

Present Perfect Tense

The Verb To Be: Forms, Examples and Grammar Exercises

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