2

Example in my own writing:

Kazumi didn't reply to her boyfriend---or rather ex-boyfriend's---message. Instead, she stayed at Burger King, reanalyzing Kouta's abandonment over a coffee. No, starting a new life couldn't be the whole reason. Kouta should be cooking a bigger plan. Or a more rotten one.

Is this correct? Or I should use couldn't have been and should've been instead?

3

It depends whether the activity being discussed has stopped or is still happening.

In the original, starting a new life couldn't be [and still couldn't be] the whole reason, and Kouta should be [and still should be] cooking a better plan.

Alternatively , starting a new life couldn't have been [at the time] the whole reason, and Kouta should have been [at the time] cooking a better plan.

Personally, I like : starting a new life couldn't have been [at the time] the whole reason, and Kouta should be [and still should be] cooking a better plan.

But as others have said, all could be correct. (And any could have been correct...)

| improve this answer | |
2

I think the writing is fine as it is. To me, they sound like the conclusion of the reanalyzing: She was reanalyzing, and now she knows something: X cannot be true. Y should be true.

In fact, "should have been cooking a bigger plan" makes it sound like it is too late to do that now. Similar to "Joe should have been saving for retirement", or "Kathy should have been watching her sugar intake". It sounds like they should have been but did not and now it is too late and they shall face the consequences.

If that is what you want to imply, use "should have been".

On the first, "couldn't be" and "could not have been" are mostly equivalent, but if the ramifications are still ongoing or the secret of the true motivation will have further consequences, I would use "couldn't be". The motivation is still operative and we need to find out what it is.

| improve this answer | |
1

Technically, they're both grammatically correct, though the sentence flows better using couldn't have been and should've been.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.