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If a situation is happening in the present that did not exist in the past and I want to express that I was unable to foresee what is happening now, which of these sentences should I use?

  1. I could not foresee this sad outcome.

  2. I could not have foreseen this sad outcome.

  3. I was unable to foresee this sad outcome.

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  • (2) seems the most natural to me. Apr 3, 2018 at 8:08

1 Answer 1

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I agree with Kate ( Choice #2 is correct ). Number 3 is also acceptable, but not quite as accurate.

Option 2 is preferable - "Could not have" + verb (forseen) = because it addresses the situation using the conditional tense ef.edu/english-resources/english-grammar/conditional – RickyBobby yesterday

Option 3 is acceptable because the construction: I was unable to + VERB (present tense) is "softer" than: I could not + VERB (present tense). Option 1 is "so direct" - it would be how I would imagine Commander Data from Star Trek the Next Generation would discuss the situation – RickyBobby yesterday

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  • Option 2 is preferable - "Could not have" + verb (forseen) = because it addresses the situation using the conditional tense ef.edu/english-resources/english-grammar/conditional
    – RickyBobby
    Apr 4, 2018 at 0:15
  • Option 3 is acceptable because the construction: I was unable to + VERB (present tense) is "softer" than: I could not + VERB (present tense). Option 1 is "so direct" - it would be how I would imagine Commander Data from Star Trek the Next Generation would discuss the situation
    – RickyBobby
    Apr 4, 2018 at 0:19

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