174.- Conditional permission. C1.

Hypothetical / conditional permission in the present / future


Could = would be allowed to

This is used to talk about permission when we want to use a hypothetical or conditional meaning.

  • He could come late. Nobody would mind (= he would be allowed to come late).
  • You could stay at home but then I wouldn’t be able to do all the work.
  • If John came early to help, Lucy could arrive whenever she liked.



Hypothetical / conditional permission in the past


We use ‘could + have + past participle’ to talk about permission for things that didn’t happen in the past. This is used for conditional and hypothetical situations.

  • Could I have gone home early? (I didn’t go home early but I’m asking if it was allowed.)
  • Could we have delayed the meeting? (We didn’t delay the meeting but I want to know if it would have been possible.)

We can use ‘could + have + past participle’ in this way to talk about something that would definitely have been allowed in the past, but that didn’t happen.

  • I don’t know why he decided not to come at all. He could have come late.
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