2

Background:

Of the following possible constructions, I found explanations of 1A, 1D and 2A in grammar books.

(1A) Er hat mir einen Brief schreiben können : He was able to write me a letter (and so did).

(1B) Er habe mir einen Brief schreiben können.

(1C) Er hatte mir einen Brief schreiben können.

(1D) Er hätte mir einen Brief schreiben können : He was able to write me a letter (but didn’t).

(2A) Er kann mir einen Brief geschrieben haben : He may have written me a letter.

(2B) Er könne mir einen Brief geschrieben haben.

(2C) Er konnte mir einen Brief geschrieben haben.

(2D) Er könnte mir einen Brief geschrieben haben.

Question:

Are the other constructions also possible, and if yes when would you use them?

My random thoughts:

For what they are worth (for stackexchange says, 'Share your research').

(1B) Can 1A become 1B in reported speech? (Of course, 'er' and 'mir' may have to change.)

(1C) Could 1C be like 1A except as happening at a time prior to a given past. For instance, I was prepared yesterday because the day before he had been able to warn me.

(2B) Can 2A become 2B in reported speech?

(2C) Could 2C be like 2A except as happening (being the case) at a past time. For example, as of yesterday we all entertained the possibility of his having written me. Today, we know that he did or did not.

(2D) Could 2D be like 2A but the speaker feels more uncertain?

2

The translations you found in the grammar books are correct.

Indeed, (1B) is reported speech of (1A). Example:

Max: "Ich habe dir einen Brief schreiben können."
→ Max sagte zu mir, er habe mir einen Brief schreiben können.

(1C) is, as you already guessed, the past tense of (1A). Your example is correct. Another example:

Max hatte mir einen Brief schreiben können. Ich freute mich darüber.
Max had managed to write me a letter. I was glad about it.

(1D) might, in addition to your suggestion, as well come up in reported speech. Example:

Max sagte zu mir, er hätte mir einen Brief schreiben können.

In this case, it is not clear whether Max did eventually write the letter or not. Therefore, it can have these two meanings:

Max told me he had managed to write me a letter. (just as 1B)
Max told me that he would have been able to write me a letter, but didn't do so.

(2B) is reported speech of (2A). Example:

Eva: "Max kann dir einen Brief geschrieben haben".
→ Eva sagte zu mir, Max könne mir einen Brief geschrieben haben.
Eva said to me that Max might have written me a letter.

(2C) is the past tense of (2A) and works as you suggested, analogous to (1C)/(1A). Your example is correct.

(2D) is applicable to reported speech but more often, it is used synonymously to (2A) and might (not necessarily) indicate a little uncertainty.

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