If someone has made a mistake, which of the following sentences could I use:

1. How can you be so careless?

2. How could you be so careless?

3. How could you have been so careless?

4. How can you have been so careless?

 

Many thanks!

Original Post

Hi, Ruifeng,

Nice to be on this wonderful forum again with its respectable and dear members and moderators. 

ruifeng posted:

If someone has made a mistake, which of the following sentences could I use:

1. How can you be so careless?

2. How could you be so careless?

3. How could you have been so careless?

4. How can you have been so careless?

 

Many thanks!

Well, I wouldn't use '3' or '4'.  I think '1' and '2' are OK, but I'm more inclined to the use '2': 'How could you be so careless?' It sounds better and seems close to 'How dare you (do that)?'

Hi, Ruifeng and Ahmed_btm,

It's great to see both of you again. We were only offline for a couple of days, but it felt (to me at least) like a long couple of days. Ahmed, would you be so kind as to share how you managed to produce that elegant block-quotation? I haven't figured out how to do that yet!

I agree with you, Ahmed, that (1) and (2) are fine. I do hear a subtle difference between them. "How can you be so careless?" suggests that the speaker thinks the mistake may recur or that the mistake is already part of a recurrent pattern, whereas "How could you be so careless?" is a response to a particular instance.

In truth, (3) doesn't bother me. I wouldn't flinch at all if a native speaker said it and intended it to have the same meaning as (2). But I think an argument could be made that it very technically has a counterfactual meaning . Compare: "How could he have stolen it? He wasn't even in the country at the time!"

Sentence (4) doesn't work at all in the given context. A context in which that structure would work is one in which the very possibility of someone's having done something was being disputed on the basis of evidence that one is examining in the present.

  • Look at the sound waves in the recording. How can Armstrong have said "That's one small step for a man"?
tara posted:

You should click "Take action" then select "Reply with Quote"

Thank you, Tara! That's very helpful. 

Regarding the "like reply" function, I haven't tried to use it yet. However, when we were about to change to the new platform, and the Digital Development Director at Pearson showed me a sample of how the new forum would look, I specifically requested that the "like" function be disabled.

I hope we'll be able to change things so that the "like" function does not display at all. That way it won't look as though people aren't getting "likes"! I realize that "liking" can be nice. But I believe that academic discussions ought not to be popularity contests, where the person with the most "likes" wins. ♣

davidmoderator posted:
tara posted:

You should click "Take action" then select "Reply with Quote"

Thank you, Tara! That's very helpful. 

Regarding the "like reply" function, I haven't tried to use it yet. However, when we were about to change to the new platform, and the Digital Development Director at Pearson showed me a sample of how the new forum would look, I specifically requested that the "like" function be disabled.

I hope we'll be able to change things so that the "like" function does not display at all. That way it won't look as though people aren't getting "likes"! I realize that "liking" can be nice. But I believe that academic discussions ought not to be popularity contests, where the person with the most "likes" wins. ♣

Thank you

davidmoderator posted:
tara posted:

You should click "Take action" then select "Reply with Quote"

Thank you, Tara! That's very helpful. 

Regarding the "like reply" function, I haven't tried to use it yet. However, when we were about to change to the new platform, and the Digital Development Director at Pearson showed me a sample of how the new forum would look, I specifically requested that the "like" function be disabled.

I hope we'll be able to change things so that the "like" function does not display at all. That way it won't look as though people aren't getting "likes"! I realize that "liking" can be nice. But I believe that academic discussions ought not to be popularity contests, where the person with the most "likes" wins. ♣

Is there anyone saying that you are a caring and thoughtful man? 

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