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They couldn't/cannot have played a game

hirashin

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Dear native English speakers,
Would (a) and (b) be used with almost the same meaning? Would (c) be used as well? If so, would it have a different meaning?
(a) They can't/cannot have played a game in the heavy rain.
(b) They couldn't have played a game in the heavy rain.

(c) They must not have played a game in the heavy rain.

Thanks in advance.
Hirashin
 

Takichan

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A and B, like you say, have ALMOST the same meaning. C is a different meaning. Out of all of them, B is the probably the most used.
 
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If you use A, "cannot" sounds stilted, though it's still correct. Stick with "can't" in that form.
 

hirashin

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Thank you for the help, takichan and Julimaruchan.
I think (b') has a different meaning than (b). Am I right?
(b) They couldn't have played a game in the heavy rain.
(b') They couldn't play a game in the heavy rain.
 

Takichan

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Yes, you are right b and b' are different. B' is the most used of all of the options.
 
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