perfect structure or simple structure in unreal conditionals with modals?

2

1

Consider this context:

  • Person A was the only one who escaped from a prison.
  • The prison had several inmates including A.
  • Someone says that A bribed the guards.
  • I want to reject that view by saying that all of the inmates could do so, but he was the only person who escaped.

I want to use conditionals to construct a sentence which accommodates the four points above.


I wrote:

They would/could also escape from the prison if his escape was through bribing.

and

They would/could also have escaped from the prison if his escape was through bribing.

I think both are correct, but I am not sure about the difference.

In my view, both are unreal conditionals and convey this information that they didn't escape. Would guide me about those two sentences?

Cardinal

Posted 2016-10-02T09:19:37.520

Reputation: 5 877

A bit off-topic: To serve time in a prison that anyone can escape from for money must be a daydream of every second inmate:-) – Victor B. – 2016-10-02T15:42:21.197

Answers

2

You wrote:

They would/could also escape from the prison if his escape was through bribing

I don't necessarily agree with your logic, but here goes:

If prisoner A could escape by bribing the guards, the other prisoners could have escaped in the same way.

The other prisoners as well could have bribed the guards and escaped, if prisoner A had done so.

If prisoner A could escape by bribing the guards, the other prisoners could do so too.

A native speaker in conversation might be likely to say:

If prisoner A could escape by bribing the guards, so could the other prisoners.

P.S. **could" + present perfect refers to an event in the past in hypothetical terms.

If I could have stolen the jewels, so could you (have stolen them).

If there was nothing to prevent me from stealing the jewels, neither was there any obstacle to your stealing them.

could plus present refers to a hypothetical event. The time of the event is not given. It could be future. It could be past. It is the event outside of time, and only the context establishes the temporal reference.

If I could steal the jewels, so could you (steal them).

If I am able to steal the jewels, so too are you. If I was capable of stealing the jewels, so too were you.

Tᴚoɯɐuo

Posted 2016-10-02T09:19:37.520

Reputation: 116 610

Thank you, would you add something about the difference between the perfect structure and simple structure, that's to say, could ... and could have ... . – Cardinal – 2016-10-02T10:26:23.393

Please see the P.S. – Tᴚoɯɐuo – 2016-10-02T10:59:24.807