I was thinking "that couldn't have been further from the truth", but I am wondering if we can use it in a sentence that's happening in the simple past, since the tense is present perfect, you'd expect this expression to be used in a sentence using the present perfect tense.

  • Please provide an example sentence where you’d plug this in. – Jim Feb 7 '17 at 21:47
  • @Jim I think OP has done so. – StoneyB Feb 7 '17 at 22:29
  • @StoneyB - OP says, “I’m wondering if we can use in a sentence that’s happening in the simple past” that’s the sentence (or maybe the context) that I’m interested in. – Jim Feb 8 '17 at 1:15
  • @Jim The sentence in the title is in as simple a "past" as you can get with a modal verb. – StoneyB Feb 8 '17 at 2:04
  • That was as far from the truth as was possible. – Jim Feb 8 '17 at 4:25

I don't believe the phrase itself can exist in past tense. The phrase describes the (impossible) state of an object/comment vis-a-vis the "truth". Using the past tense forces you to locate "that" in respect to the truth, which renders the spirit of the phrase moot.

Compare "that couldn't have been" versus "that was not" the truth. Two different meanings.

The phrase works in any sentence regardless. The present perfect situates in the past and extends to the present.

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