Discussion:
if he could
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a***@gmail.com
2020-01-11 21:37:50 UTC
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1) He confessed because the evidence against him was overwhelming. If he could,
he wouldn't have confessed.

Is the second sentence grammatical?
Is it idiomatic?

Gratefully,
Navi
Peter Young
2020-01-11 21:46:36 UTC
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Post by a***@gmail.com
1) He confessed because the evidence against him was overwhelming. If he could,
he wouldn't have confessed.
Is the second sentence grammatical?
Is it idiomatic?
Yes and yes.
Peter
--
Peter Young, (BrE, RP), Consultant Anaesthetist, 1975-2004.
(US equivalent: Certified Anesthesiologist) (AUE Hg)
Cheltenham and Gloucester, UK. Now happily retired.
http://pnyoung.orpheusweb.co.uk
Peter Moylan
2020-01-11 22:17:24 UTC
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Post by Peter Young
Post by a***@gmail.com
1) He confessed because the evidence against him was overwhelming.
If he could, he wouldn't have confessed.
Is the second sentence grammatical? Is it idiomatic?
Yes and yes.
It doesn't work for me, because the beginning of the second sentence
sounds as if it means "If he could confess", which creates a contradiction.

I'd rephrase it. The replacement that comes to mind is "If he had had
his druthers", but of course that's highly colloquial. Perhaps it's
better to drop the "if", and say "He would have preferred not to confess".
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Peter T. Daniels
2020-01-12 14:31:35 UTC
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On Saturday, January 11, 2020 at 4:37:53 PM UTC-5, ***@gmail.com wrote:

[written yesterday, before any other replies appeared]
Post by a***@gmail.com
1) He confessed because the evidence against him was overwhelming. If he could,
he wouldn't have confessed.
Is the second sentence grammatical?
Of course. But not in any sense remotely related to the first sentence.
Post by a***@gmail.com
Is it idiomatic?
Ditto.

You want "If he hadn't had to, ..."

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