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  1. #1
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default She would have been 80?

    The main character's grandma passed away long time ago at least 20 years ago, and Melinda(the main character) said "She would have been 80.", but didn't she make a mistake in saying "(If she were alive), she would be 80"?

    "She would have been 80" is a conditional refering to the counter factual past meaning "If she had been alive back then, she would have been 80". Even if she supposed "if her grandma was alive a few years after she passed away",it won't make sense. From what I watched in the drama, her grandma was like between 60 and 70 when she was a little girl like 7 or 8. and at least twenty years have passed till now.
    It's all confusing.

    -ghost whisperer
    125901 - Is this your grandmother?
    127433 - Wow. She looks
    127433 - exactly like you.

    129368 - In fact, i think i've seen this
    129368 - bathing suit in your closet.
    131533 - She was very special.
    134533 - I miss her.
    135800 - Like, "special" special?

    140334 - Her birthday is sunday.
    140334 - She would have been 80.

  2. #2
    The Dude is offline Member
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    Try to keep it simple, and think of other examples:

    1. "If I were you (but I am not) I would be very careful."

    2. "If I were alive (but I am a ghost ) I would be able to eat."

    So your alternative is grammatically correct in itself:

    3. "If she were alive (but she is not) she would be 80."

    However the example is something else. The missing part, that we have to understand, is in a different tense:

    4. "If she had lived until now (but she did not)", or "If she had not died (but she did)" is followed naturally by "she would have been 80 on Sunday."

    The different tenses reflect a different situation. In 1, 2 & 3 we are talking about the 'here & now' - a present situation (so I underlined the verb to show this). In 4, the defining verb that I've underlined is in the past.

    So, today, if I were you I would be careful. But yesterday, if I had been you I would have been careful.

    Have I made it better or worse?

  3. #3
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    Try to keep it simple, and think of other examples:

    1. "If I were you (but I am not) I would be very careful."

    2. "If I were alive (but I am a ghost ) I would be able to eat."

    So your alternative is grammatically correct in itself:

    3. "If she were alive (but she is not) she would be 80."

    However the example is something else. The missing part, that we have to understand, is in a different tense:

    4. "If she had lived until now (but she did not)", or "If she had not died (but she did)" is followed naturally by "she would have been 80 on Sunday."

    The different tenses reflect a different situation. In 1, 2 & 3 we are talking about the 'here & now' - a present situation (so I underlined the verb to show this). In 4, the defining verb that I've underlined is in the past.

    So, today, if I were you I would be careful. But yesterday, if I had been you I would have been careful.

    Have I made it better or worse?
    Thank you so much, and I know the conditionals for present and past.
    "If she had not died (but she did)" is followed naturally by "she would have been 80 on Sunday." I think what I know for this is
    "If she had not died, she would be 80 on Sunday" as she said "Her birthday is sunday" in the future, maybe it meant "passed Sunday" or even for the future Sunday, you can probably say "she would have been 80".
    So which is correct?

  4. #4
    The Dude is offline Member
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    It doesn't make a difference whether the Sunday is last or next. What's important is to keep the tenses agreeing in the usual way. So we would still use '...she would have been 80 next Sunday', if the first part of the sentence, spoken or understood, was 'If she had lived/not died...'.

    Similarly:

    "If I had trained harder I could have competed in next year's Olympics."

    NOT:

    "If I had trained harder I could compete in next year's Olympics."

  5. #5
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    It doesn't make a difference whether the Sunday is last or next. What's important is to keep the tenses agreeing in the usual way. So we would still use '...she would have been 80 next Sunday', if the first part of the sentence, spoken or understood, was 'If she had lived/not died...'.

    Similarly:

    "If I had trained harder I could have competed in next year's Olympics."

    NOT:

    "If I had trained harder I could compete in next year's Olympics."
    It's all confusing as I have learned mixed conditional for past+present or present+past, but you seem to be saying past+past(meaning present or future) can be also possible, this is a new finding. Then when do I have to use past+present or when to for past+past?

  6. #6
    The Dude is offline Member
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    I think this may be due to the subjunctive coming along and messing things up!
    It's a dangerous area, with plenty of confusion possible.

    But I'm afraid it's been 13 years since I was last actively teaching and, as I said above, this is a dangerous area, muddy waters, etc. My memory and my ability to explain complicated issues, seem to be failing me! It's also late at night and I'm going to bed. Hopefully someone more up-to-date will take this on...
    Last edited by The Dude; 18-Mar-2011 at 11:30. Reason: wrote rubbish...

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    It's all confusing as I have learned mixed conditional for past+present or present+past, but you seem to be saying past+past(meaning present or future) can be also possible, this is a new finding. Then when do I have to use past+present or when to for past+past?
    Instead of following those models, why not think about the meaning and the context:
    If I had got that job, I would be the CEO now. (Fine)
    However, when you're dealing with someone who's dead and there no possibility of anything, then 'she would have been 80' gives an added sense of finality. I am not CEO, but I am alive and around. Grandma isn't.

  8. #8
    keannu's Avatar
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Instead of following those models, why not think about the meaning and the context:
    If I had got that job, I would be the CEO now. (Fine)
    However, when you're dealing with someone who's dead and there no possibility of anything, then 'she would have been 80' gives an added sense of finality. I am not CEO, but I am alive and around. Grandma isn't.
    Thank you, By finality, you seem to mean the any last presumption of the dead should stay in the past as they couldn't proceed further from the past point. I got it. Okay, probably my language also has the same expression.
    Thank you so much, I guess this is an exceptional case for the dead.

  9. #9
    The Dude is offline Member
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    A new day and a clearer mind!

    Tdol is right to ask you to consider the sense of finality here: there is absolutely no chance of the second part of the sentence happening: it's too late.

    But don't interpret that as only meaning it's because the principal person has died. It's just too late, that's all: final.

    You have said you know about the present and past types of conditional sentence - ie: those that express probability and improbability. But we are dealing here with a third type: impossibility.

    1. Expressing reality or probability:
    "If you train hard, you will compete in next year's Olympics."
    Present tense for the 'if' clause, future for the main clause.
    Competing in the Olympics is possible, but only if you train hard.

    2. Expressing unreality or improbability:
    "If you trained hard, you could compete in next year's Olympics."
    Past simple tense for the 'if' clause, conditional for the main.
    Competing in the Olympics is unlikely for you because you are not training hard enough.

    3. Expressing impossibility:
    "If you had trained hard, you could have competed in next year's Olympics."
    Past perfect in the 'if' clause, conditional perfect in the main.
    It's too late! You didn't train hard enough and now there's no chance of competing.
    This is the finality mentioned by Tdol.

    Notice how in 3, the Olympics are still in the future, just like the 80th birthday. It doesn't matter when the event is, - past, present or future - we still keep the same construction in the sentence. The Olympics could have been last year, or we could be watching them now.

    So your example, run through the 3 types of conditional sentence, would change like this:
    1. She'll be 80 on Sunday if she lives. (we expect her to live)
    2. She'd be 80 on Sunday if she lived. (we expect her not to live)
    3. She'd have been 80 on Sunday if she'd lived. (she didn't live)

    Finally, let's review my first reply to your question:

    'She would have been 80' is correct. It's the main part of a conditional sentence (3rd type) and we understand the other part as being 'If she had lived'.

    'She would be 80' is also a correct alternative, but here we understand the other part as being 'If she were alive'. So the subjunctive (if I were you) has sneaked in and made things more complicated. However, the end result is the same.

    Sorry about my confusing (and wrong ) post last night - it was very late in the day and I was having a bad case of 'brain fade'.

  10. #10
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: She would have been 80?

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    Thank you, By finality, you seem to mean the any last presumption of the dead should stay in the past as they couldn't proceed further from the past point. I got it. Okay, probably my language also has the same expression.
    Thank you so much, I guess this is an exceptional case for the dead.
    It could be used where we wish to emphasise the concept of finality, so not only for death- the basic underlying concept of the perfect is to show some form of completion. Rules are generally more models than rigid rules, and language is about generating meaning, so we can bend and adapt rules to suit our purpose. It wouldn't be wrong to say she would be 80, but it doesn't carry the same emotional impact IMO- would have been is more poignant..

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