10.1. THE UNREAL PAST OR CONDITIONAL: REAL TIME

Grammar resources might label the quote here 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…”
Theodore Roosevelt, American President

Some resources would tell we join the Past Perfect and the Future in the Past, to build the 3rd Conditional. We would have to hold the Past Perfect for potentially Unreal and actually a matter of style. We may compare a quote from Gerald Ford.

If Lincoln were alive today, he’d be turning over in his grave.

Within the framework here, Perfect tenses are patterns for real time. To compare physical space, we might think about paths or routes on real ground. {TO} is our cognitive variable for real time.

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TEXT EXTENT: I HAVE WORKED -- I HAD WORKED

With Modal forms, HAVE brings an auxiliary compass for relative time, and closes the frame for the theory. We attach the auxiliary compass to the Modal. Our cognitive variable would be a Modal-mediated {ON}.

TEXT EXTENT: WE MAY HAVE WORKED -- MIGHT HAVE WORKED

Whether our verb would be to read, to speak, to run, to stop, or to jump, duration and time span become non-essential and generalized, with a theory closed frame. We have named it our Modal Net. The patterns become more of backtrack logic: we look to the consequent, to speculate on the premise.

TEXT EXTENT: MODAL NET, MAY HAVE JUMPED, MIGHT HAVE STOPPED

If we allow that language may transfer features, phrases as had eaten might show transfer of the syntactic anchor from the consequent. When auxiliary HAVE closes the time frame, we could say it anchors for reference.

PICTURE: BACKTRACK LOGIC, FEATURE TRANSFER

Let us compare another president quote.

“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

IN 1910, US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

We can view the phrase “I WOULD have made progress” as a Modal-mediated and real-time “I HAVE made progress”. Let us consider a general picture for real and auxiliary time.

PICTURE: THE BASIC POOL OF LANGUAGE COMPONENTS

Modality is not indispensable for auxiliary grammatical time, we may compare ■→SUBCHAPTER 9.1. We can have auxiliary time without a Modal as well.
I am happy to have exercised;
I was happy to have exercised;
I will be happy to have exercised.

Let us change the verb “to exercise” into the verb phrase “to make progress”.
I am happy to have made progress;
I was happy to have made progress;
I will be happy to have made progress.

Let us modify our infinitive with the Modal form MAY.
I am happy I may have made progress;
I was happy I might have made progress.
I will be happy I may have made progress.

For the progress in Calvin Coolidge quote, we could envision MODAL-MEDIATED, REAL-TIME OPEN FRAME. The progress is not a theory.
I cannot see any way in which I would HAVE made progress.
(He has made progress.)

PICTURE: REAL-TIME OPEN FRAME

For progress in theory, we may compare a MODAL CLOSED FRAME,
But the obstacles, she WOULD HAVE made progress.
(But she has not made any progress.)

SYMBOLICS: RELATIVE TIME CLOSED FRAME

The resolve depends on the context.

Let us now gather on Modality and the main or head, real time. We need to mind the form of the Modal verb alone.

If someone asked,
“What HAS she BEEN doing?”
An answer as,
“She MAY HAVE BEEN working”,
would close the hypothetical time for the grammatical and real-time PRESENT.

PRESENT Modal forms also tend towards the grammatical FUTURE. If we say we CAN or MAY work, the hypothesis goes into the FUTURE a little. Our Modal frame remains open. 

SYMBOLICS: RELATIVE TIME OPEN FRAME

It is only with the open frame that a PAST Modal form might refer to the grammatical FUTURE.

We might say,
“We COULD do this tomorrow,”
but we would not use the auxiliary HAVE and close the frame
*She COULD HAVE / MIGHT HAVE finished by tomorrow.

The only exception would be the Modal WILL itself; it is a regular mapping word for the FUTURE.
She WOULD HAVE finished by tomorrow.

If we are tentative about a future result, we also can say
“Maybe it WILL HAVE ended by tomorrow”.
We may view the structure as the real-time Future Perfect, with an open real-time frame.

The form “CAN” is quite special. We use it to tell what we are really able to do; we have the skill, or even mastery and finesse. Many grammar resources discourage closing the frame on it in the Affirmative, whatever the grammatical time (* we can HAVE)…

PICTURE: MODAL VERB TENDENCIES IN THE FIELDS OF TIME

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

Well, we may have worked out some logic. If we were lazy, we would have been doing something else for the past hour.

For a competent insight into our syntax, let us consider the Progressive. Feel welcome.
■→10.2. FORM RELATIVITY: THE PROGRESSIVE