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    #1

    Thumbs up conditional clause

    A man who had common sense would not do that.

    This is a sentence appearing in a grammar book, the best-sold grammar reference book in Korea.
    The book explains this as a kind of sentence with a conditional meaning and rephrases it as follows:

    A man who had common sense would not do that.
    =A man, if he had common sense, would not do that.

    I don’t think that the first sentence conveys the very meaning it intends to. It is different from the rephrased one in meaning. In order for the first sentence to have the same meaning with the rephrased one, I think it has to be converted to “A man who has common sense would not do that.”
    Most of all, I don’t understand why the author uses the past tense in the relative clause instead of the present tense even if it has a present meaning. Of course I am fully aware that in some conditional clauses expressing unreal situations, we can use a form like this. “If you had common sense, you would not do that.” But it is doubtful whether applying the same pattern in the relative clause is possible. In my opinion, if the first sentence remains untouched, it means that “A man with common sense refused to do that”.
    I would like to know which explanation, the book or mine, makes sense. Could answer for me?
    Last edited by critic72; 03-Oct-2005 at 09:34.


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    #2

    Re: conditional clause

    man who had common sense would not do that. =A man, if he had common sense, would not do that.
    To me, the sentences should be corrected to:-

    a) A man who had common sense would not have done that.= A man, if he had common sense, would not have done that.

    b) A man who has common sense would not do that.= A man, if he has common sense, would not do that.

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #3

    Re: conditional clause

    Usage note, in that context "had" expresses, "If he had common sense (i.e., is known to have common sense), and still has common sense, then he wouldn't do that". For example,

    Max: I'm going to give away all my money and possessions to the people in New Orleans who lost everything.

    Pat: A man who had common sense wouldn't do that. Max, let's think about this for a moment, because I know you're a man who has common sense. If you gave away everything you owned, you'd be just like the people in New Orleans who lost everything. Why not rethink it? What about denoting some money and some of your clothes and furniture? That's what a man like you, one who has common sense, would do.

    If Pat uses Present "has", it would imply that Max doesn't have common sense:

    Max: I'm going to give all my money and possessions away to the people in New Orleans who lost everything.
    Pat: A man who has common sense would not do that.
    Max: Are you saying I don't have common sense?!


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    #4

    Re: conditional clause

    A man who had common sense wouldn't do that.
    It's just like saying that the sentence, "A man who had chickens would have eggs for breakfast." is correct instead of, "A man who has chickens would have eggs for breakfast." because the man would have to keep the chickens for a period of time before they would lay eggs!! Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, even with English grammar!


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    #5

    Smile Re: conditional clause

    Quote Originally Posted by Temico
    It's just like saying that the sentence, "A man who had chickens would have eggs for breakfast." is correct instead of, "A man who has chickens would have eggs for breakfast." because the man would have to keep the chickens for a period of time before they would lay eggs!! Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, even with English grammar!

    Thank you for your helpful comments, Temico and Casiopea.

    But I'm still in question about this problem.

    To get more help from you guys, I need to clarify my question. To begin with, I need to elaborate on what the grammar book says.

    According to the rule the grammar book lays down, "A man who had common sense would not do that" can be rephrased into "A man, if he had common sense, would not do that", which implies that "Because a man does not have common sense, he will do that."
    It asserts that both in the first and second sentence "had" has a present meaning, not a past. That's why the first and second sentence can be rephrased to the third one. This is exactly what the book argues. It explains that these three sentences have the same meaning.
    I should make it clear that what I said above is not my argument or interpretation but the explanation offered in the grammar book.

    My question begins from here.

    In the first place, is it possible to interpret the "had" in the first sentence as a present meaning? And what about the "had" in the second sentence?

    Secondly, do you think that the first sentence shares the same meaning with the second, or the second with the third?


    If I myself answer these questions, I would say as follows:

    With regard to the first question, my answer is no. The "had" in the relative clause cannot be interpreted as having a present meaing. However, the "had" in the second sentence, I think, should be interpreted as having a present meaning.


    With regard to the second question, my answer is that undoubtedly the first does not share the same meaning with the second, but that the second sentence can be rephrased to the third. As I mentioned in the original post, in order for the first and the second sentence to share the same meaning, the first sentence has to be corrected to "A man who has common sense would not do that."

    As you may know, I'm not a native but an international. More than anything else, I would like to know for sure whether natives think it possible to use "had" as a present meaning in the relative clause.

    I tried my best to clarify my points, but sorry for my inability to do that. It is really hard to make myself understood!!

    Thanks for your comments again, and wish your helpful comments.


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    #6

    Re: conditional clause

    I would like to know for sure whether natives think it possible to use "had" as a present meaning in the relative clause.
    Since I am not a native English speaker, I'll keep out of this wrangle.
    Last edited by Temico; 04-Oct-2005 at 00:08.


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    #7

    Re: conditional clause

    Sorry for my carelessness, Temico. That's not what I meant. Your comment would be of great help to me.

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    #8

    Re: conditional clause

    Hello C72

    1. A man who had any common sense would not do XYZ.
    2. A man, if he had any common sense, would not do XYZ.
    3. Because a man does not have any common sense, he will do XYZ.

    I've added "any", to make them more idiomatic.

    The relative clause in #1 can be construed as a defining clause, i.e. "A man-who-had-common-sense". The past form of "had" is used for the sake of consonance with "would". I would paraphrase it like this:

    4. If a man had any common sense, he would not do XYZ.

    So rather than using "had" with a present sense, we're using it with a sense of the "remote", as in a "type 2" conditional.

    Another version would be:

    5. A man who has any common sense won't do XYZ.
    6. If a man has any common sense, he won't do XYZ.

    Here, the present tense + "will" is used with a sense of the immediate, as in a "type 1" conditional.

    You might use either as a general comment on "doing XYZ", or if you were giving advice about "doing XYZ". The difference is that #5 sounds more "direct" than #1.

    In this sentence,

    7. A man who has any common sense wouldn't do XYZ.

    you have a "mixed conditional" version:

    8. If a man has any common sense, he wouldn't do XYZ.

    It combines directness in the IF clause with remoteness in the main clause.

    I don't know if that helps. Let me know if not! :)

    MrP

    PS - regarding the two other sentences:

    #2 is ok, but sounds a little clumsy. The "if" clause could either be an afterthought, or a very deliberative statement. So it's a paraphrase of #1 in theory, but not in practice.

    #3 is an invalid inference from #1. It makes "doing XYZ" the necessary consequence of "not having common sense"; whereas all we know is that someone who "does XYZ" doesn't have common sense.

  2. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #9

    Re: conditional clause

    Quote Originally Posted by critic72
    According to the rule the grammar book lays down,

    [#1] "A man who had common sense would not do that"

    can be rephrased into

    [#2] "A man, if he had common sense, would not do that"
    Right. In other words, and taking into account MrP's contribution, "The relative clause in #1 can be construed as a defining clause", it's about haves and have nots. The clause "who had common sense" defines all men: Group A, men who have common sense (present), and Group B, men who do not have common sense (present):

    #1 "A man who had common sense"
    => All men. Groups A and B

    which makes it possible to rephrase #1 as #2:

    #1 "A man who had common sense, wouldn't do that.
    #2 "A man, if he had common sense, would not do that"
    => Group A wouldn't do that, whereas Group B would.

    which, in turn, lends itself to #3:

    #3 "Because a man does not have common sense, he will do that"

    And even #4:

    #4 "Because a man has common sense, he will not do that"

    which is a rephrasing of #1:

    #1 "A man who has common sense, wouldn't do that.

    In short, "both in the first and second sentence "had" has a present meaning, not a past. That's why the first and second sentence can be rephrased to the third one."

    ========================
    Try,

    Thanks, again, for your help, and I look forward to hearing any additional comments you might have to offer.


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    #10

    Thumbs up Re: conditional clause

    Thanks for your elaborate explanation on this question. Sure, I am very happy to learn a lot of things from you.

    Sorry for my additional question, actually slightly different from the original one.
    I want to make sure about one thing. Let's go back to the original sentence.

    1. If a man had common sense, he would not do that.

    I have been fully aware and learned that I should use the past tense in the if clause when we express a situation that is highly unlikely to happen. (In fact I learned it from school like a formula: If S + V(verb in the past tense), S + would(could, etc))+ bare infinitive. The word "dogma" rather than the formula might be more suitable because it might sound rather rigid to English speaking people.)

    That's why we should put "had" in the if clause.

    My question starts from here. Please make sure to answer me this question.

    2. A man who had common sense would not do that.

    Does the same thing happen in the underlined defining relative clause, and should we apply the same rule here that was applied to the if clause?
    If so, is there any rule that offers a more detailed explanation about this? In fact, I have known that a subordinate clause that is subordinate to a conditional clause is not affected by the tense applied to the conditional clause; for example, if he knew that she is(not was) honest, he would not blame her. Therefore, I have argued that since the defining clause is a kind of subordinate clause, “has”, instead of “had”, should be used in the original sentence. Please tell me where I am wrong and where I am right.
    In this sense, Mr. Pedantic’s(I don't think he is a pedentic^^) comment gives me a hint that I have been looking for. He said that
    The past form of "had" is used for the sake of consonance with "would", which I believe implies that the same rule has applied to the defining clause.

    But I am eager for more general explanation about this. Please tell me in what condition the same rule can be applied to a subordinate clause.

    I'm looking forward to your helpful comments again!! Thanks in advance.
    Last edited by critic72; 05-Oct-2005 at 21:00.

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