Alphadictionary.com

Our Sponsors

Technical Translation
Website Translation Clip Art
 

Conditionals express what tense

You have words - now what do you do with them?

Postby Audiendus » Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:57 pm

Enigma wrote:And I still think we are not sure about the verb 'got' in this example, where we have the backshift.

If it were the past subjunctive, then the conditional would have to be second conditional, not first.

But then it can't be a past tense verb, because the verb refers to a time in the future.

Exactly! That is the problem. And if we are dealing with the verb "to be", we have to choose between was and were - but (for the reasons you have given) both seem to be wrong!
Audiendus
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: London, UK

Postby Slava » Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:05 pm

Audiendus wrote:I knew that if I was careful the next day, I would probably win.
or:
I knew that if I were careful the next day, I would probably win.

This one goes back to an idea mentioned earlier: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learn ... v301.shtml. It states that was and were are interchangeable.
User avatar
Slava
Grand Panjandrum
 
Posts: 4685
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2006 9:31 am
Location: Finger Lakes, NY

Postby Enigma » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:15 am

Audiendus wrote:
Enigma wrote:And I still think we are not sure about the verb 'got' in this example, where we have the backshift.

If it were the past subjunctive, then the conditional would have to be second conditional, not first.

But then it can't be a past tense verb, because the verb refers to a time in the future.

Exactly! That is the problem. And if we are dealing with the verb "to be", we have to choose between was and were - but (for the reasons you have given) both seem to be wrong!


I don't know about you, but I'm reluctant to accept defeat. I must get to the bottom of this. Surely an embedded conditional is not so rare that books don't touch on this.
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
Enigma
Lexiterian
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:26 pm
Location: New Zealand

Postby Audiendus » Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:46 am

I have investigated this matter further. Have a look at the site "Grammaring - the web of English grammar", and look up "First conditional in indirect speech". It gives the example:

If we leave now, we'll catch the train.

It gives the reported form (assuming the train has since left) as:

I told him that if we left [then], we'd catch the train.

It adds: "Note that the verb left in the last sentence is in the real past simple tense". So it seems that the correct form in my own example is:

I knew that if I was careful the next day, I would probably win.

Contrary to my initial impression, therefore, the "got" in "if I got lost" is past indicative, not subjunctive. So if we change "got" to "be" in your original example, the sentence will read:

I left home early to make sure I would have extra time if I was lost.

Note that this is not a 2nd conditional, which would have "were".

Do you agree with this? On the question of whether the rules for reported-speech conditionals apply to all embedded conditionals, I can't think of any reason why they wouldn't do so. "Say that", "tell that", "know that", "ensure that" and "make sure (that)" seem grammatically analogous.
Audiendus
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: London, UK

Postby Enigma » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:56 pm

Well done for finding this. But before I think about this explanation too much, I think we have to decide which approach to consider:

Reading further on this site you found, I noticed it explains that second conditionals and third conditionals also are backshifted in reported speech. But in the youtube clip, it said not to backshift both the 2nd and 3rd conditional (unreal tenses).

Which are we more inclined to believe?
Last edited by Enigma on Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
Enigma
Lexiterian
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:26 pm
Location: New Zealand

Postby Audiendus » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:39 pm

Enigma wrote:Reading further on this site you found, I noticed it explains that second conditionals and third conditionals also are backshifted in reported speech. But in the youtube clip, it said not to backshift both the 2nd and 3rd conditional (unreal tenses).

Which are we more inclined to believe?

The 'Grammaring' site says that 2nd (not 3rd) conditionals are backshifted. But this creates ambiguity between reported 2nd and reported 3rd conditionals, so I prefer the youtube rules.

But youtube is not clear about the was/were (i.e. mood) distinction. The relevant example it gives is:

You might want to get a bigger cake if there's going to be more than eight people.

In reported speech it changes this to:

...if there were going to be more than eight people.

Is this just a change from (informal) singular to (formal) plural, or is it meant to be a change from singular present indicative to singular past subjunctive? It's not clear.

Perhaps we have to conclude that there is no generally agreed set of rules on this. :?
Audiendus
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: London, UK

Postby Enigma » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:47 pm

Surely there is a definitive answer, at least among authoritative sources. I'll keep looking. Meanwhile, here is an answer/opinion I received from a respected teacher/grammarian:

The tense of the main clause determines the tense of the result clause of the embedded conditional, and the tense of that result clause, in turn, determines the tense of the if-clause. These considerations take priority over any considerations of likelihood. Note, however, that in any case, there is a sequence of tenses within the first and second conditional patterns that should be respected as well, and you don't normally phrase the if-clause as if it is less likely while phrasing the result clause as if it is more likely (or vice versa). In other words, the two clauses of the conditional structure must be consistent.

The only time that likelihood enters into it is when you choose between a plain first conditional and a plain second conditional not embedded in another structure, and even then it's not so much likelihood as whether you are thinking of the situation in "the real world" or thinking of it in "an imagined alternate world" -- although I recognize that there is a connection between this conceptualization and one involving likelihood.



What do you think about this?
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
Enigma
Lexiterian
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:26 pm
Location: New Zealand

Postby Enigma » Sat Mar 13, 2010 5:02 pm

And I still think we are not sure about the verb 'got' in this example, where we have the backshift.

If it were the past subjunctive, then the conditional would have to be second conditional, not first.

But then it can't be a past tense verb, because the verb refers to a time in the future.


Or maybe we are thinking too much into this.

The conditional is backshifted due to the past tense verb outside the clause. It is still 1st conditional, and 'got' is still an indicative verb.

'got' expresses a future time in the past. I don't know why before we thought 'got' can't refer to a future time. Or do you still think it can't refer to the future in the past using got? 'got' is a past tense verb, but it refers to a future time in the past.

I left home early to make sure that if I got lost (tomorrow), I would have extra time.
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
Enigma
Lexiterian
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:26 pm
Location: New Zealand

Postby Audiendus » Sun Mar 14, 2010 2:45 pm

Enigma wrote:The conditional is backshifted due to the past tense verb outside the clause. It is still 1st conditional, and 'got' is still an indicative verb.

'got' expresses a future time in the past.

Yes, I think this is the best explanation. And if we are using the verb 'be', we should in this case say was rather than were. This gives us the following useful distinction:

I said that if I was successful, I would have a celebration.
[Backshifted 1st conditional - likely/possible condition referring to future-in-the-past.]

I said that if I were successful, I would be rich.
[Backshifted 2nd conditional - unlikely/impossible condition referring to present-in-the-past.]

I said that if I were to be successful, it would be a miracle.
[Backshifted 2nd conditional - unlikely/impossible condition referring to future-in-the-past.]

One further question. If we "de-embed" the conditional, should we still apply the same rules to it? I think we should. For example, I think both of the following are OK:

I was glad I had left early. If I got lost, I would have extra time.

I was glad I had left early. If I was [subsequently] lost, I would have extra time.
Audiendus
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: London, UK

Postby Enigma » Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:06 pm

I was glad I had left early. If I got lost, I would have extra time.

I was glad I had left early. If I was [subsequently] lost, I would have extra time.


Yes, I would say it is a fair assumption to call these first conditionals, expressing a likely situation, in the past, but after the leaving (thus a future in the past).

It's interesting bringing such examples to fruition. Discussions of conditionals explain the three conditionals (and the zero and mixed conditional), each with their own verb tense, as you know.

Now surely the example sentences above show that often the tense of these conditionals change according to the tense of the passage as a whole. These examples surely must also show that the forumula for these conditionals are more likely to confuse readers, as they may think the examples above for example are 2nd conditionals.
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
Enigma
Lexiterian
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:26 pm
Location: New Zealand

Postby Enigma » Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:49 am

I just received a third opinion on these conditionals. This opinion totally disagrees with our analysis of conditionals.

When I asked him what conditional this was (I was glad I had left early. If I got lost, I would have extra time.)
he said it was 2nd conditional, not first conditional. :evil:
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
Enigma
Lexiterian
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:26 pm
Location: New Zealand

Postby Audiendus » Mon Mar 15, 2010 9:34 am

Perhaps you could ask him whether he thinks the following sentences are (a) both correct, and (b) both 2nd conditionals.

Audiendus wrote:I said that if I was successful, I would have a celebration.
[Backshifted 1st conditional - likely/possible condition referring to future-in-the-past.]

I said that if I were successful, I would already be rich.
[Backshifted 2nd conditional - unlikely/impossible condition referring to present-in-the-past.]
Audiendus
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: London, UK

Postby Enigma » Mon Mar 15, 2010 5:00 pm

I said that if I were successful, I would already be rich.
[Backshifted 2nd conditional - unlikely/impossible condition referring to present-in-the-past.]


Before I ask him, I need to know why you call this a backshift to 2nd conditional. If a sentence were backsifted from 2nc conditional, it would backshift to the 3rd conditional:

I said that if I had been successful, I would have already been rich.
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
Enigma
Lexiterian
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:26 pm
Location: New Zealand

Postby Audiendus » Mon Mar 15, 2010 6:15 pm

Enigma wrote:Before I ask him, I need to know why you call this a backshift to 2nd conditional. If a sentence were backshifted from 2nd conditional, it would backshift to the 3rd conditional:

I said that if I had been successful, I would have already been rich.

Have a look at your most recent post in the "Subjunctive and verb tenses" thread. You quote grammaring.com as follows:
He looks as if he knows the answer. (=He seems to know the answer, and he probably does.)
He looks as if he knew the answer. (=He seems to know the answer, but he doesn't.)

In the past tense both sentences will read as follows. Mind that knew in the second sentence does not change into had known.

He looked as if he knew the answer.

Remember also the rules given in the youtube presentation about the bakery (you shouldn't change tenses when backshifting a reported unreal (i.e. 2nd) conditional).
Audiendus
Senior Lexiterian
 
Posts: 588
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 6:08 pm
Location: London, UK

Postby Enigma » Mon Mar 15, 2010 11:52 pm

I said that if I were successful, I would already be rich.
[Backshifted 2nd conditional - unlikely/impossible condition referring to present-in-the-past.]


Yea, I was just unsure whether the rules apply to conditionals though (as well as to 'as if/as though').
What you see, yet can not see over, is as good as infinite. ~Thomas Carlyle
Enigma
Lexiterian
 
Posts: 194
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:26 pm
Location: New Zealand

Previous

Return to Grammar

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron