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  1. #1
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    counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    Does the "cost" mean counterfactual present or unlikely future? When you see second conditional, how can you decide if it's counterfactual present or unlikely future? What is the criteria? I've posted similar questions, and I know it depends, so it's still hard to tell the difference.
    Is it mostly "be" verbs for counterfactual present and "past tense" for unlikely future? I don't think so, but I'm not sure. This seems counterfactual present with "past tense".

    ex)When choosing between two products, would you care if one cost $9.25 and the other cost $9.24? Most consumers won't worry about a single penny. But if the two prices are $9.99 and $10.00, chances are they will. That's because our brains tell us that one product costs $9 and the other costs $10.

  2. #2
    Preceptor is offline Junior Member
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    Re: counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    This is an instance of a subjunctive verb used in a conditional clause known as 'future more vivid.' It is not necessarily counterfactual, but it certainly contains an element of futurivity.

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    Re: counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    Quote Originally Posted by Preceptor View Post
    This is an instance of a subjunctive verb used in a conditional clause known as 'future more vivid.' It is not necessarily counterfactual, but it certainly contains an element of futurivity.
    The only verb in which the subjunctive mood is recognisable in conditional sentences is BE, and then only in the first and third persons singular.Even with BE, many speakers of BrE do not use the subjunctive form, except perhaps in the almost fixed phrase 'if I were you', so some writers feel that there is no need to speak of a subjunctive mood in conditional sentences.

    The expression 'future more vivid' is used more of Latin than of English.

    None of the 129 dictionaries here OneLook: General dictionary sites lists the word 'futurivity'. Did you mean 'futurity'?

    In the sentence under consideration, we have a question about a hypothetical situation. There is not necessarily any reference to the future.

  4. #4
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    Re: counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    Thanks for all of your answers, but what I needed was the criteria for telling counterfactual present from unlikely future.
    Sentences with time adverbs surely indicate it like
    "If I jogged everyday, I would be healthy" => counterfactual present
    "If I jogged tomorrow, I would be feel fresh" => unlikely future.

    But in numerious cases like imaginery story-telling, I can't find any time verbs indicating the present or the future, and due to this, I have explained wrong to my students by switching them. I feel guilty, Please help me to get through this. Is context the only solution? But I can't find it even in contexts.

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    Re: counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    Is context the only solution?
    Yes

  6. #6
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    Re: counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    You seem to mean context is vital for determining it as you said before. Then, do even some native speakers take it wrong? The other day, I talked to an American in person regarding Mickey Mouse case, and he told me it's about future, but when I asked him if it can about the past, then he kind of nodded,seeming confused.
    And in this thread, Preceptor said it's about future, while you said it's counterfactual present(timelss hypothesis), hence different opinions.

    If even native speakers are not definite about an untterance, I doubt if I have to make strict distinction about the two. Sometimes I just explained second conditionals to my students "This can be either counterfactual present or unlikely future" vaguely feeling some guilty. I don't know if this explanation is a good way of teaching.
    Last edited by keannu; 14-Dec-2011 at 11:23.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    Without more context, I would say that this is hypothetical, which would put it in what you're calling the counterfactual present. The writer does switch to the first conditional when discussing more common prices a couple of sentences later, but the first situation is setting up a hypothetical example for the sake of argument before moving on to the more common distinction, and not proposing an unlikely future IMO.

  8. #8
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    Re: counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    Quote Originally Posted by keannu View Post
    You seem to mean context is vital for determining it as you said before. Then, do even some native speakers take it wrong? The other day, I talked to an American in person regarding Mickey Mouse case, and he told me it's about future, but when I asked him if it can about the past, then he kind of nodded,seeming confused.
    Most native speakers do not spend a lot of time analysing their own language, and their answers cannot be relied on when it comes to this sort of analysis.Many graduate native speakers find the grammar part of TEFL cerificate course difficult, and I have held remedial grammar workshops for beginning and more experienced teachers in many schools in which I have worked. Most native speakers use appropriate forms, but that does not mean that they can explain why.
    And in this thread, Preceptor said it's about future, while you said it's counterfactual present(timelss hypothesis), hence different opinions.
    I did not. I said that is not necessarily about the future; I did not mention 'present' or 'counterfactual'. Some of your problems arise because you add your own things to what I and others write.
    If even native speakers are not definite about an untterance, I doubt if I have to make strict distinction about the two. Sometimes I just explained second conditionals to my students "This can be either counterfactual present or unlikely future" vaguely feeling some guilty.
    The so-called 'second conditional' can refer to hypothetical future, general, or present time.Only context can tell us, for each utterance, which time is referred to and whether or not it is counterfactual.

    Look at your example again: When choosing between two products, would you care if one cost $9.25 and the other cost $9.24? Most consumers won't worry about a single penny. But if the two prices are $9.99 and $10.00, chances are they will. That's because our brains tell us that one product costs $9 and the other costs $10.

    The speaker could be speaking about a general or a future hypothetical situation. Personally, I think that they are probably talking about a general hypothetical situation rather than a specific future situation, but it doesn't really matter. IF the time were important for some reason, the speaker would make it clear:

    When choosing between two products while shopping tomorrow, would you care ...?

  9. #9
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    Re: counterfactual present vs unlikely future

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Without more context, I would say that this is hypothetical, which would put it in what you're calling the counterfactual present. The writer does switch to the first conditional when discussing more common prices a couple of sentences later, but the first situation is setting up a hypothetical example for the sake of argument before moving on to the more common distinction, and not proposing an unlikely future IMO.
    Millions of thanks!!!!

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