English Grammar Construct “Couldn’t Have Been”

By Robby

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Video Transcript Below:

Hello my dear fellow foreign English speakers! It’s Robby here from EnglishHarmony.com and welcome back to my video blog. Today I’m bringing you another English idiomatic expression video but unlike other English idiomatic expression videos where I’m focusing on typical English idioms and phrasal words and collocations today I’m bringing you what I like to call a grammar construct. And the grammar construct in question is “couldn’t have been”.

At first if you just look at “couldn’t have been,” it might confuse you. You might try and figure out what it means in grammar terms. What the English grammar tense represents and all that sort of thing but you don’t have to do it. And you may actually want to read this article where I’m talking about it that you don’t have to try and figure out what exactly something means in grammar terms, okay? All you’ve got to do is just repeat that particular grammar construct, memorize it and then you’ll be able to use it in relevant situations without knowing what it represents, right?

And the funny thing is that prior to recording this video I was kind of thinking to myself “Hold on, I have to look it up and see what it actually means, what kind of tense it is.” But I’m not going to get bogged down on these grammar terms just like I told you because it serves no purpose whatsoever, okay? So all you’ve got to do is just repeat it, memorize it and then you’ll be able to use it.

And the first example sentence that I’m going to give to you containing “couldn’t have been” is “couldn’t have been done without”, right? And typically you would use it when describing when a particular thing, some sort of an assignment or something couldn’t have been done without the help of someone else or without using some tool or some piece of software or whatever.

So for instance your boss is asking you how you got done with the job, simple as, and you tell them “Listen, yeah, I got it done but it couldn’t have been done without the help of my colleague here. So a lot of credit goes to him. It wasn’t just me who got the job done because it couldn’t have been done without him.” Okay? And this is a typical way of using this particular grammar construct, right?

So you have to do some spoken practice whereby you come up with your own fictional scenario. Obviously you use your own workplace or college you attend or whatever and then you kind of put yourself in that situation when you are communicating with someone and then you use that phrase. And then next time around when such a situation presents itself you’ll be quite automatically able to use that phrase, okay?

Next example. Couldn’t have been more pleased. And it’s a typical way of saying that you were very, very pleased. I couldn’t have been more pleased. Or I couldn’t have been happier. When someone asks you “Did you enjoy when your work colleagues congratulated you on your birthday?” Then you can tell them “Listen, I couldn’t have been happier because I was totally shocked, that was a complete surprise, I didn’t even expect that and I couldn’t have been happier”, right?

And the third example is “couldn’t have been prevented.” Often times people talk about some disasters or catastrophes or incidents and people wonder whether they could have been prevented or not and then unfortunately sometimes the conclusion is that despite the fact that in retrospect we can think of a lot of things that kind of could have prevented that particular catastrophe from happening, sometimes it couldn’t have been prevented because there are certain things that are just bound to happen.

And for instance the tsunami that happened all those years ago – 10 years ago at this stage I would imagine – that wiped out so many people’s lives in Southeast Asia. It couldn’t have been prevented. A lot of the fatalities probably could have been prevented but the actual catastrophe, this tsunami itself couldn’t have been prevented, you know, it’s one of those things that just happens that we have to accept that reality of life.

So I hope that you’re going to be using this particular grammar construct “couldn’t have been” and just like I told you don’t try and figure out what it represents whether it’s passive or active voice or what kind of tense it is. It serves no purpose. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you can use it. Okay?

So I hope that you enjoyed watching this video and just like I told you a million times before do some spoken English practice. If you just watch this video without any practice whatsoever, this video is not going to serve any purpose. Okay?

So if you have any questions obviously publish them in the comment section below. And chat to you soon my friends. Bye-bye!


P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!

P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • English Harmony

    Interesting idea, but I don’t have enough time 🙂
    Thanks for reaching me!

  • ItzH

    Hello Robby,
    I was wondering if you can make a website on old English?
    I wouldn’t expect you but if you can.
    Thank you.

  • JustCheemu

    Many thanks.

  • Hi Cheemu,

    The proper way to word this particular sentence would be: “The candidates will attend the interview at the scheduled time.”



  • JustCheemu

    Hi Robby,
    I have a doubt.
    Is it ‘on the scheduled time’ or ‘on scheduled time’?
    Sentence – The candidates will attend interview on _____.

    I know that it’s not related to the topic discussed here. Still, expecting your reply.