Which is correct?
In the 20th century people were expected to live for several decades, but in the 18th century they (could die / could have died) at a much younger age.
- TommymcLv 71 month agoFavorite Answer
I believe "could have died" is the most appropriate choice. You could also avoid that entirely by saying:
"In the 20th century people were expected to live for several decades, but in the 18th century, many died at a much younger age."
Worldwide life expectancy had remained level at about 25-35 yrs. until the mid 1800's. From that point on, especially in the US and Europe, it began a steady rise. In 1900, the average lifespan in the US was around 50 yrs. Today, it's in the high 70's or low 80's.
Averages don't tell the whole story. Recently, I've spent a lot of time searching my genealogy. I've also walked around several old graveyards from the 1600's - 1800's. One remarkable thing was how many children were buried there. Back then, kids died from all sorts of diseases that we get vaccinations for. My observation is that if somebody survived childhood, they had a good chance of living to a ripe old age. A few exceptions: accidents, infection (no anti-biotics), and childbirth. In light of that, I might write your sentence differently.
"Until the mid 19th century, average life expectancy had remained steady at several decades. From that point onward, life expectancy has been rising steadily."
- RPLv 71 month ago
Could have died is preferred.