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Here is a paragraph from the HP books:

Was he imagining things? Could all this have anything to do with the Potters? If it did... if it got out that they were related to a pair of---well, he didn't think he could bear it.

In my opinion, the second sentence should be "Could all this have had anything to do with the Potters?" namely, to use the past participle to refer to the past time.

Could anybody help me out with this problem? Thanks.

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    He thinks "Am I imagining things? Can all this have something to do with the Potters?" Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 9:33
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    @Kate Bunting Drat! While I was typing you said it all, and in fewer words. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 9:54

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He asks himself, "Am I imagining things? Can all this have something to do with the Potters?" The past tense is enough to report his thoughts.

It could also have been written entirely in the pluperfect but it would have lost its urgency, particularly when you add the next line:

Could all this have had anything to do with the Potters? If it had... if it had got out that they were related to a pair of---

Too many hads! And perhaps it should change tense here:

If it had. . . and if it NOW got out that they were related . . .?

It loses its immediacy and becomes pedestrian.

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  • However, is it appropriate to use indirect speech without saying something like "He thought"? There are also examples which reported his thoughts in the pluperfect using the author's speech such as "He'd never even seen the boy.It might have been Harvey. Or Harold." Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 12:15
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    Yes, it's fine. The context makes it obvious that a question written like that is the character's thoughts, without having to spell it out every time. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 12:28
  • Since so, why not say "It might be Harvey.Or Harold." instead of "It might have been Harvey.Or Harold."? As it's also the character's thoughts. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 12:41
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    In the example, "could" is not the past tense of "can". "Could all this have anything to do with the Potters?" is a theoretical question. We see this from the "if-clauses" that follow. It has the meaning of "Was/Is it possible that all this had something to do with the Potters?" Harry's actual thought was "Could this have anything to do with the Potters?" which, when put into reported speech, can remain the same or become "Could this have HAD anything to do with the Potters?" with the latter being better used to describe something whose action has finished.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 14:10

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