Hello dear forum members, The other day, as I was trying to formulate an acceptable sentence to express my frustration with someone about forcing me to leave the house for the train station extremely early, even though the train was due to leave in 30 minutes or more, I found myself in a bit of a pickle, because I didn't seem to be able to decide which verb tense would be most suitable in the following sentence.

I could've come a couple of minutes before the train leaves/left. (I am already at the train station, but it's still a long time before the train comes.)

I've been trying to forget about this, considering the fact that it happened ages ago and it's been eating away at my brain ever since that day, but the stubborn language obsessed side of me just won't leave me in peace. Also, as a side note I have to mention that my English has sadly gotten extremely rusty, since I haven't used it as much as I would've liked to since moving to the country that I live in now, so it could just be that I'm overcomplicating something simple.

Some alternatives that I came up with after having a good and long think about this are the following sentences:

I could've come later so I wouldn't have to wait here for this long.

I could've come only in time to catch the train.

I don't see why I had to get here so early when the train won't even be here before xx:xx .

I'd very much appreciate an answer. cheers

  • 1
    Were it me, I'd say either, "I could have left the house much later and still been on time" or "I could have arrived [at the station] later and still had plenty of time [before the train left]." – MDHunter Feb 1 '18 at 12:40
  • These are both pretty good suggestions, but isn't there any way to make the first sentence I mentioned work? I mean, I can think of a few other scenarios where "could have" could be used to talk about a possibility in the future, such as : We could have discussed this after we ate dinner. ( we are discussing this matter right now and having dinner at the same time, but discussing it after eating dinner would've been a better idea.) @MDHunter – Ana Feb 1 '18 at 12:55
  • I would definitely say: I could've come later so I wouldn't have had to wait for so long. Why are you asking about so many sentences? By the way, there is no future here at all. It's all conditional. – Lambie Aug 31 '18 at 22:05
  • I could have left much later and still made it. – Jim Aug 31 '18 at 22:38

Your sentence:

'I could've come later so I wouldn't have to wait here for this long.'

Isn't quite right. I would word it as:

'I could've come later so I wouldn't have had to have waited here for so long!'

That's how I would say it.

I changed 'this long' to 'so long' - because it emphasises the length - which is the main point of your sentence - 'the how long' you had to wait. And makes it in the past - the wait is over.

(You could leave it as 'this' - in which case, you yourself are in the present tense - giving the sense that you are exclaiming this - right now! - perhaps to a friend who has just shown up).

Whereas with 'so' - you are reporting completed events, after the fact.

And I put the conditional 'wouldn't have had to' because that tells us your condition was 'forced'. You 'had to' do something. You 'had to' - wait.

The 'have waited' is past continuous - it tells us your wait... went on for a time.

If you use -so long - then the wait happened and is over. If you use -this long - then the wait was going on and is concluding - right now, or has gone on up to right now - the moment of your speaking.

I hope that helps your poor brain! It is a complicated sentence construction.

Your first sentence could be reworded correctly as:

I could've come just a couple of minutes before the train left!

I added the 'just' to emphasise the difference between the short wait - and your actual, long one.

I added the (optional) exclamation mark for clarity - as what is being described or hoped for, was not actually what occurred (hence - 'surprise!').

Another option (exclamation!):

'If only I'd've come just a few minutes before the train left!'

  • Well , first of all, thanks @Jelila for your elaborate response. It's helpful in many ways, however one thing that I can't quite wrap my head around is why you changed " wouldn't " to "wouldn't have had" in the first sentence. Perhaps I wasn't completely clear with regards to the scenario. let's say I was on the phone with the person who had forced me to go to the train station early, still waiting for the train. Since the waiting is still taking place and not over yet, would it be appropriate to use "wouldn't have had" ? – Ana Feb 1 '18 at 13:25
  • Well it is an extensive question! No, because you are talking about the 'waiting' that you have already done. Or the waiting that you will have to 'have done' before the train arrives. – Jelila Feb 1 '18 at 13:39
  • Fair enough. One more question and then I'm done. :-) I just want to double check that this sentence "I could've come just a couple of minutes before the train left!" is what you'd have said while you were at the train station and not when talking about those past events in present. – Ana Feb 1 '18 at 13:47
  • Yes Ana! Exactly. That one works for that, as is. @Ana – Jelila Feb 1 '18 at 13:55
  • Cool!😊🎉 glad if it helped! – Jelila Feb 1 '18 at 14:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.