10.1. THE UNREAL PAST OR CONDITIONAL: REAL TIME

Let us try a few more quotes.

 

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

PICTURE: PRESIDENT THEODORE ROOSEVELT

PRESIDENT THEODORE ROOSEVELT

 

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.

 

Some of those resources would tell we build the 3rd Conditional of the Past Perfect and the Future in the Past.

 

We would have to recognize the Past Perfect for a potentially Unreal form, then.

 

Worse still, our “Unreal Past Perfect” would be as good as merely a fancy. Please compare a quote from Gerald Ford.

 

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

 

PICTURE: PRESIDENT GERALD FORDPRESIDENT GERALD FORD.

 

It is not only for our pension plans that we might be unwilling to have the Past Perfect for merely a fancy.

 

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

 

{TO} is our cognitive variable.
We have the variable to render duration and time spans.

 

TEXT EXTENT: I HAVE WORKED -- I HAD WORKED

 

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 closes the frame for the theory. We attach the auxiliary compass to the Modal.

 

Our cognitive variable is {ON}.

 

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

Duration and time span become generalized.
We have called it our Modal Net.

 

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

Whether our verb would be to read, to speak, to run, to stop, or to jump, duration becomes non-essential, with a theory closed frame.

 

The matter is exactly the same with the anchor HAVE in Theodore Roosevelt’s quote. The phrase, “had been alive”, is not concerned with longevity or shortness of life.

 

The phrase narrates about being alive generally, and we could quote Gerald Ford’s wording, “were alive” for an exact paraphrase.

 

Naturally, we might note that live people would not be likely staying in their graves, but our thing here is to work grammar for language uses as they are, even if absolutely abstract or humorous.

EMOTICON: SMILE

We may recur to CHAPTER 10. Our example was
“If you HAD eaten the cookie, you WOULD NOT HAVE had it (at some later, but still PAST time)”.

 

Again, the anchor HAVE pays no heed to the length of time it takes to eat a cookie. It helps mind if the cookie remains, or has been consumed in the course of events.

 

The syntactic role is narrative, not factual.
We may compare SUB-CHAPTER 9.2.
I thought the handle MIGHT HAVE / COULD HAVE broken off.
(It turned out it was still in place.)

 

However we know the theory was against fact, we can tell our story with the anchor HAVE.

 

About stories and their telling, the Conditional or grammatical “unreal time” are often backtrack logic: we look to the consequent, to speculate on the premise.

 

Let us think if language might transfer features.

 

PICTURE: BACKTRACK LOGIC, FEATURE TRANSFER

We can view the phrase had eaten as a transfer of the syntactic anchor from the consequent.

 

We may think about a similar transfer for the Passive, where the object becomes the subject and the predicate adapts.

 

We do not need to view the anchor HAVE as the real-time Past Perfect. For speculation as “had been alive” or “were alive”, the choice is purely stylistic.

 

Let us try another president quote.

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“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

PICTURE: PRESIDENT CALVIN COOLIDGE

CALVIN COOLIDGE IN 1910, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

 

Grammar resources might label the above as the 2nd Conditional, or view the phrase “I WOULD have made progress” as a Modal modification of a real-time “I HAVE made progress”.

 

The argument might be, the words definitely refer to a time span, between some time PAST and PRESENT, in which progress has been made.

 

Let us consider two views to our syntactic structures. We began building our language structures joining the grammatical Person, Time, and Aspect.

 

Modal verbs have brought form relativity and auxiliary grammatical time. Let us picture these language components.

 

PICTURE: THE BASIC POOL OF LANGUAGE COMPONENTS

Let us think where the verb TO HAVE might occur, as an auxiliary or head verb.

 

PICTURE: THE VERB ‘TO HAVE’ AS PART THE LANGUAGE COMPONENTS

 

For the auxiliary time, we may compare SUB-CHAPTER 9.1.
Modality is not indispensable:
We can have auxiliary time without it, too.
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.

 

We can view phrases as modified, as well. Our view is likely to depend on the context and word sense, namely, if a phrase looks a theory, or not.

 

The progress in Calvin Coolidge quote is not a theory.
I cannot see any way in which I would HAVE made progress.

 

Our symbolics is to help comprehend.
For Calvin Coolidge quote, we can use
MODAL MEDIATION, REAL-TIME OPEN FRAME.
SYMBOLICS: MODAL MEDIATIONPICTURE: REAL-TIME OPEN FRAME

 

For a theory, we may compare,
But the obstacles, she WOULD HAVE made progress.
But she has not made any progress.
The symbolics to help see the difference can be
A CLOSED MODAL FRAME.
SYMBOLICS: RELATIVE TIME CLOSED FRAME

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Let us think how the Modal frame closes. With our modified infinitive above, Modality is attached as a subordinate clause. It does not make the main grammatical time.

 

Let us compare Modality for our main or head, real time.

 

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

 

Saying, “She MAY HAVE finished by tomorrow”, or “She WILL HAVE finished by tomorrow”, we would close our hypothetical time on tomorrow.

 

We can use our auxiliary time extent with all grammatical time, but we need to mind the form of the Modal verb alone, for the main time.

 

PRESENT Modal forms tend towards the grammatical PRESENT or 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

 

Modal shapes we class as PAST tend towards the PAST or PRESENT. It is only with the open frame that we can use PAST Modal forms for the grammatical FUTURE.

 

We might say,
“We COULD do this tomorrow,”
but without auxiliary HAVE.

PICTURE: MODAL VERB TENDENCIES IN THE FIELDS OF TIME

For our main time, we would not produce forms as
*She COULD HAVE / MIGHT HAVE finished by tomorrow.

 

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

 

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.

 

If we are tentative about a future result, we 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.
PICTURE: REAL-TIME OPEN FRAME

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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.

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Do we need to resolve between labels as “Unreal Past” or “Conditional”? Let us mark individual verbs for grammatical form, in these 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.”

 

It is obvious there must be a relative interpretation for grammatical from, and the extent for this relativity embraces the verb phrase.

 

A verb phrase can be one verb, or a verb structure, as with auxiliary HAVE.

 

Classing entire stretches of language as Conditional or Unreal Past, we might feel lost for the main time. We can stay by terms as “a relative verb form”, or “verb form relativity”.

 

Verb forms would be relative to the main grammatical time, the reference we make for the real time.

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

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

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CHAPTER 10. FORM RELATIVITY GALORE

With Modal verbs and patterns as the Conditional or Unreal Past, we may feel about language form more as a reflection.

 

Let us see if we could apply our MODAL TIME FRAME to guidance on the Unreal Past or the Conditional.

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There has been much dispute over the Conditional. Some grammarians reject it altogether.

 

Let us remember that labeling does not change the objective language reality. It cannot decide on how linguistic forms may work within human discourse.

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Let us use Conditional patterns, to compare language forms. We mind our target grammatical time, the PRESENT, PAST, or FUTURE.

 

We can practice with the verb TO HAVE. It can mean keeping, tolerating, or eating something.

 

As a syntactic verb, HAVE may provide the auxiliary time for Modal verbs. Let us look to the syntax and negotiation of meaning: how do we eat a cookie and have it?

EMOTICON: A JOKE

Our cookie is perfectly digestible. To choose on the word sense, we can underline the HAVE to mean keeping, tolerating, or eating.

 

We look to the premise (if you eat the cookie) and the consequent (you do not have it).

 

In PRACTICE 9.4. we viewed time as on a symbolic line.
SYMBOLICS: LINEAR FLOW OF TIME

 

ZERO CONDITIONAL

 

TARGET GRAMMATICAL TIME: THE PRESENT
VISUALS: THE FIELD FOR THE GRAMMATICAL PRESENT

83. If you eat the cookie, you DO NOT have it.

 

LANGUAGE FORM: PRESENT

If you eat {PRESENT}, you DO {PRESENT} NOT have
PICTURE: LANGUAGE FORM, PRESENT -- TARGET TIME, PRESENT, NO RELATIVITY

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1ST CONDITIONAL

 

TARGET GRAMMATICAL TIME: THE FUTURE
VISUALS: THE FIELD FOR THE GRAMMATICAL FUTURE

84. If you eat the cookie, you WILL NOT have it.

 

LANGUAGE FORM: PRESENT

If you eat {PRESENT}, you WILL {PRESENT} NOT have
PICTURE: RELATIVITY, LANGUAGE FORM, PRESENT -- TARGET TIME, FUTURE

We began our journey viewing the verb form “WILL” in the Fields of Time.

 

PICTURE: THE VERB FORM ‘WILL’ IN THE FIELDS FOR THE PRESENT, PAST, AND FUTURE

We noted there is not really a FUTURE shape for the verb form WILL.
We do not say *will will.

 

The verb form WILL maps on the FUTURE already in the PRESENT grammatical shape.

PICTURE: THE VERB FORM ‘WILL’ MAPPING ON THE FUTURE

We can compare Modal uses of WILL
85. She WILL be reading now.
(I am sure she is reading now.)

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2ND CONDITIONAL

 

TARGET GRAMMATICAL TIME: THE PRESENT
VISUALS: THE FIELD FOR THE GRAMMATICAL PRESENT

86. If you ate the cookie, you WOULD NOT have it.

 

LANGUAGE FORM: PAST

If you ate {PAST}, you WOULD {PAST} NOT have
PICTURE: RELATIVITY, LANGUAGE FORM, PAST -- TARGET TIME, PRESENT

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3RD CONDITIONAL

 

TARGET GRAMMATICAL TIME: THE PAST
VISUALS, THE FIELD FOR THE GRAMMATICAL PAST

87. If you had eaten the cookie, you WOULD NOT have had it.

 

LANGUAGE FORM: ANTECEDENT PAST

If you had eaten {ANTECEDENT PAST},
you WOULD NOT have {ANTECEDENT PAST} had
PICTURE: RELATIVITY, LANGUAGE FORM, ANTECEDENT PAST -- TARGET TIME, PAST

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4TH (MIXED) CONDITIONAL

 

TARGET GRAMMATICAL TIME: THE PAST and PRESENT

VISUALS: FIELDS OF TIME, THE PAST AND THE PRESENT

 

88. If you had eaten the cookie, you WOULD NOT have it.

 

LANGUAGE FORM: ANTECEDENT PAST and PAST

If you had eaten {ANTECEDENT PAST},
you WOULD {PAST} NOT have
PICTURE: RELATIVITY, MIXED

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We have marked our HAVES: If you HAD eaten the cookie, you WOULD NOT HAVE had it then.

 

The syntactic HAVE is green. The head verb, the notional HAVE is mauve and underlined. It may mean keeping, tolerating, or. . . eating something.

 

We may compare examples about Chantelle Règle having her extra Larousse, in SUB-CHAPTER 8.1.

 

Syntax can make us prone to interpret the notional HAVE as keeping something, in examples as 91a―d, though we can eat meals as well as have them.
EMOTICON: SMILE

 

Do we have to adopt the Conditional, to use Conditional patterns? Let us compare ideas.

 

Some grammars will say we use the First Conditional when the probability of something is high, and we use the Second for things more probable than those in the Third.

 

Grammars that reject the Conditional may support structures they name the Unreal Past. Let us consider the probability for saying,

 

89. If I WERE you, I WOULD . . .
(Please find the comment on the use of WERE also in exercise 62.)

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Skimming can be part an effective learning strategy. We can go backward and forward in our study guides, to get a picture of the language itself. The more study guides, the better.

EMOTICON: SMILE

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The PROBABILITY to become another human individual literally and ever really is ZERO, for everyone.

 

90. *I AM you . . . / *You ARE me . . . ?
(There is zero probability, even if someone pretends another person.)

 

Example 92 could be the Second Conditional or Unreal Past. Regardless of the label, it conveys zero probability, for the PRESENT, PAST, as well as FUTURE.

 

What would be if he were …

PICTURE: BOB IN TROUBLE

… if he were her … and if she were him …?

 

PICTURE: ALICE, AUTUMN STROLL

 

Bob says an unreal past could not exist without an unreal present or future, and he really wants to go to the Himalayas.

 

Alice says there never could be literally such a time as unreal time; just as well, you could try to have a cat for an unreal dog.

 

She pretends she is seeing bubbles, when it comes to unreal reality, and practices that too, sometimes.

EMOTICON: A JOKE

Feel welcome to the GRAMMAR GRAPEVINE.

 

Chantelle says the world’s worst advice she ever got always came with someone saying, “If I were you…”

 

She skips the phrase owing to her language economy, also when she listens. She feels different about saying or hearing, “If I were in your shoes…”

 

PICTURE: CHANTELLE'S KITCHEN TALK

 

“I’d have fresh veg every morning.”
EMOTICON: SMILE

 

Bob is not thinking about the high Himalaya: he is too small. It is not only in highest mountainous areas we may want to manage, however.

 

PICTURE: QUICKDRAW

 

91. If you HAD NOT taken care of it, this handle WOULD HAVE broken off.

 

PICTURE: WOMAN ON A CLIFF WAVING THE FLAG

 

Within the probability approach, example 91 is the 3rd Conditional, which tells about the least probable events. The example yet might be telling about a prevented thing.

 

Let us think about probability a little further.

 

92. If you take care of this handle now, it still MIGHT work.
(The probability is low.)
SYMBOLICS: 1 CUBE

 

We can transform the example and say,

92a. If you take care of this handle now, it WILL work.
(The probability is very high.)
SYMBOLICS: 5 CUBES

 

Both 92 and 92a could receive the same label — of the First Conditional — and they differ in PROBABILITY very much.

 

In 92, taking care of the handle is probable to result in its working.

 

In 92a, the probability amounts to CERTAINTY. Taking care of the handle is sure to bring a working condition.

 

PROBABILITY is not going to explain on the use of forms. Let us try LINGUISTIC RELATIVITY.

 

PICTURE: PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT

 

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, American President

 

Let us sum up. For theory or guesswork, we can use

 

PRESENT verb forms to speak about the FUTURE,
PAST forms to speak about the PRESENT,
and
ANTECEDENT PAST forms to speak about the PAST.

 

Feel welcome to
10.1. THE CONDITIONAL OR UNREAL PAST: REAL TIME.
BUTTON: 10.1. THE CONDITIONAL OR UNREAL PAST: REAL TIME

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