In Passé composé, some verbs have very short irregular past participles (vu, bu, cru, su, lu, tu, pu, dû).
Look at these sentences in Passé composé:
It's worth learning this list by heart since these verbs all have the same sounding short past participle:
boire (to drink) -> bu
croire (to believe) -> cru
savoir (to know) -> su
lire (to read) -> lu
taire (to silence, to keep quiet) -> tu [rare]
pouvoir (to be able to) -> pu
devoir (to have to) -> dû
Examples and resources
Q&A Forum 2 questions, 8 answers
Vous avez pu recontrer Sting?
I think giving two different meanings may have confused the issue.
"You were able to meet Sting" = "You could meet Sting".
Nothing more, nothing less.
"The event was organised in such a way that you could meet Sting at the end of it!"
"Could have" in French uses a slightly different construct:
Well, yes, if you create a larger context using the past tense, and then make "you could meet Sting" a subsidiary clause within that context, the present tense makes sense in English. However, it seems to me that the sentence "Vous avez pu rencontrer Sting" as it stands is in the past tense in French and should therefore be read in the past tense in English as well. But I am just learning here, so thanks for getting back to me.
Yes I did follow up a bit on this after Walter's response to me.
As per my previous response, I personally don't see a difference in the two (English) phrases, but I do admit that there is probably a point of grammar here i.e., I think Walter is correct in indicating that the phrase is in the present conditional tense, and I guess I have made this error all my life and do not doubt your point that it is falling out of use.
Regardless, and for Walter's original point, the French phrase cannot be translated into "you could have met Sting". This would be:
"Vous auriez pu rencontrer Sting."
I could have met Sting (i.e., "could" as conditional of "can") -- J'auriez pu rencontrer Sting.
I am no doubt wading into waters way over my head here, but tenses and grammar aside, (ha,ha!) it seems to me that the phrase "You could meet Sting" is a description of a hypothetical in present time, unless you add more context or other modifications to it. I could be wrong, but I don't think I have ever used "could" referring to the past without the addition of "have". Perhaps that's just an American turn of speech. (Many younger Americans seem to think the phrase is "could of", which is truly sad.) I suppose language, least of all the English language, doesn't always fit into orderly little boxes the way the 18th century grammarians thought it should. I won't say anything about the French language because I am just a student here, and besides I don't wish to get into trouble with the Academie Francaise!
Thanks for your trouble.
Interesting about the declining use in English of "could" as the past tense of "can". It seems to be pretty much limited to negation: "I couldn't go to the concert because I had to work that night".