10.1. Linguistic Form Relativity: thinking real-time


However there might be no error-free people, the president quotes here absolutely do meet the requirements for standard American English. This is the kind of English we seek to verify our grammar.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, by FDR Presidential Library & Museum


“No group and no Government can properly prescribe precisely what should constitute the body of knowledge with which true education is concerned.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, American President.


Theodore Roosevelt


More than that, and breaking precedent once more, I do not intend to commence any sentence with these words ― “If George Washington had been alive today”, or “If Thomas Jefferson”, or “If Alexander Hamilton”, or “If Abraham Lincoln had been alive today…”
Theodore Roosevelt, American President


Calvin Collidge__1910
CALVIN COOLIDGE in 1910, Library of Congress


“If I had permitted my failures, or what seemed to me at the time a lack of success, to discourage me, I cannot see any way in which I would ever have made progress.”
Calvin Coolidge, American President




We have built our language structures joining the grammatical Person, Time, Aspect, and — with Modal verbs — Modal form relativity and auxiliary grammatical time. We can name all these elements our language information. Let us picture our basic information pool, for structures with Modal verbs.




Let us try to integrate Modal relativity and the Conditional or “unreal grammatical time”. For the President quotes above, grammar books may not tell whether a structure is a Conditional, an Unreal Past, or Modal use — and we may doubt patterns, if we do not get clear guidance on telling them apart. More, some grammar books will say the 3rd Conditional has the Past Perfect in the premise, and the Conditional theory does not tell real time (!)


With Perfect tenses, our syntactic HAVE helps tell about real time. It has an open, real-time frame. To compare space, we might think as about paths or routes on real ground.




With the Unreal grammatical time or Conditional, HAVE brings hypothetical time. It is not part the real map, then. It comes with an auxiliary compass for relative time, and makes a closed, relative time frame. We attach the auxiliary compass to the Modal.




Naturally, it is work on real maps to matter, and humans map even the outer space.



We use Modal frames when we are not conclusive about real time, we yet keep the Modal verb on the real time extent. We always use words in real time, and we would not say we could work, if it were impossible.


If we said we CAN or MAY work, the hypothesis would go into the FUTURE a little. The Modal frame remains open as long as we do not close it with auxiliary HAVE.






Language is not a record or chronicle. It does not require absolute certainty about things coming true, for the thought to be real.




Let us think how the Modal frame closes. If we said someone MAY HAVE worked, we would give the hypothesis a time frame closed with regard to our main or head, real time. Saying, “She MAY HAVE finished by tomorrow”, or “She WILL HAVE finished by tomorrow”, we would close our hypothetical time on tomorrow. Let us think someone would ask, in the grammatical PRESENT, “What HAS she BEEN doing?” An answer as, “She MAY HAVE BEEN working” would close the hypothetical time on the time of speaking, just as the question.


We can use our auxiliary time extent with all grammatical time, the PRESENT, PAST and FUTURE. We yet need to mind the Form Relativity (Chapter 10).


PRESENT Modal forms tend towards the grammatical PRESENT or FUTURE. Modal shapes we class as PAST tend to refer to the PAST or PRESENT.




We can use PAST Modal forms with regard to the FUTURE. We can say, “We COULD do this tomorrow.” However, we would not close the time frame. We would not say, “*We COULD HAVE done this tomorrow”.


We can use some of the grammatical PRESENT Modal forms with a closed time frame, regarding the FUTURE. We can say, “It WILL HAVE ended tomorrow”, “It OUGHT TO HAVE / SHALL HAVE ended tomorrow.” We express our degree of CERTAINTY, evaluating the FUTURE, then.


Let us mind that CAN is special. We use it to tell what we are really able to do; we have the skill, or even mastery and finesse. Some grammar resources discommend using it with a closed Modal frame, generally.


For PROBABILITY, CONTINGENCY, or POTENTIAL, we leave the Modal FUTURE frame open: the future is an open context.


It is a context open to the extent that being tentative about a result, we can say “Maybe it WILL HAVE ended tomorrow”. If we decide to view the structure as the real-time Future Perfect, the real-time frame will be open.
Real time open frame


Let us recur to the hypothesis that “unreal time” uses the Past Perfect, as in “If I HAD eaten the cookie, I would not have had it that later time” (compare Chapter 10, the grammar relativity galore).


As all Perfect tenses, Past Perfect has our green HAVE. It always implies antecedent matters or regards, also with the Infinitive. We may remember from Chapter 9.1. that the antecedent might even belong with the Future, as in “I will remember to HAVE learned”.


Right next in our journey, we learned to have the antecedent for a syntactic anchor, with the relative or auxiliary time (Chapter 9.2). We analyzed a few examples.


Orange handle turned out41a. I thought the handle MIGHT HAVE / COULD HAVE broken off.
(I was not there; I did not know.
It turned out it was still in place.)


Let us think if our language information might transfer features.




The Conditional or grammatical “unreal time” often are backtrack logic: we look to the consequent, to speculate on the premise. We can view the phrase had eaten as a transfer of the syntactic anchor from the consequent. We can perceive a similar transfer with the Passive, where the object becomes the subject and the predicate adapts.





Grammar resources might label the quote from Theodore Roosevelt as the 3rd Conditional, Unreal Past, or even the Past Unreal Conditional, dependent on the grammar approach solely.


“More than that, and breaking precedent once more, I do not intend to commence any sentence with these words ― “If George Washington had been alive today”, or “If Thomas Jefferson”, or “If Alexander Hamilton”, or “If Abraham Lincoln had been alive today…”


Grammar resources might view the quote from Calvin Coolidge in terms as above, plus some approaches would tell the phrase “I WOULD have made progress” is a Modal modification of a real-time “I HAVE made progress”, also owing to the phrases “what seemed” and “I CANNOT see”, one in the grammatical PAST, and the other in the grammatical PRESENT. We can mark the forms.


If I HAD permitted my failures, or what seemed (FORM: PAST) to me at the time a lack of success, to discourage me, I CANNOT see (FORM: PRESENT) any way in which I WOULD ever HAVE made progress.”


If we mark the word form, we can get best support from the words by Franklin Delano Roosevelt:


“No group and no Government CAN (FORM: PRESENT) properly prescribe precisely what SHOULD (FORM: PAST) constitute the body of knowledge with which true education is (FORM: PRESENT) concerned.”


Classing entire stretches of language as Conditional or Unreal Past, we might feel lost for the main time, in everyday speech. We can try linguistic form relativity. The picture can be as simple as below, of three logical extents to regard a time.


One extent would regard the main time, here the grammatical PRESENT. Another would regard the form relativity. Here, we could use the Modal form “may” where we are using “might” as well. The third extent would be our forget-me-not, relative time: we use it when we want to close a Modal frame.




Then, we can have as many relativity extents as we like, and we do not have to chunk our language for fixed patterns. The presidents’ quotes do not look any such process. More, we do not have to think we would be making unreal statements.


__Smiley joke PNG


Our feature transfer shows the map main variable as {ON PAST}, and it has the syntactic HAVE for an anchor:
“If you had eaten the cookie, you would not have had it then.” {ON PAST}.


We can see we also can expand our syntax with the variable {IN}.
“If we were lazy” {ON}, “we would have been doing something else for the past hour” {IN}.


To decide how and when we expand our syntax, let us consider the Progressive feature. Feel welcome.
Chapter 10.2. The relativity logic and the progressive


Link 10.2. Linguistic form relativity -- The logic and the Progressive