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  1. #1
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    Default problems with tense

    Hi, I really feel sorry I can't help but quote this long passage for my question.
    "The takeoff is no different than that of a normal airplane on a runway," says Zubrin. "But once the oxygen is loaded, the plane goes to an altitude of 128 kilometers at 2 G's (two gravities). There will be several minutes of weightlessness before re-entry, so passengers can float around the cabin. The view from the window will be like looking out of the shuttle- a black starry sky and a wide view of the Earth."
    After floating for a few minutes, you would start back down, again, at 2 G's acceleration - similar to the gravitational force you feel descending on a big roller coaster. After re-entering the atmosphere, the plane would glide like the shuttle. As you approached your destination, the pilot would start the jet engines, and land the craft like any other airplane. But this flight wouldn't have taken ten long (ususally boring) hours.
    Above is part of a reading passage titled "Here comes the rocketplanes"
    What confuses me is those two red-marked expressions.
    My question is..
    First, why "approached"? in the context where it refers to some possibilities that could happen in the future? - seems to me there's no reason to use past tense.
    Second is about "wouldn't have taken", (also the matter of tense!).
    Does it refer to something that could have occurred in the past like "If there had not been your help, I wouldn't have succeeded."? - or does the author mean something that will complete in the future, like "by the end of May, it will have taken a total of 20 weeks".
    Too long questions but what do you think?
    Last edited by babyblue; 21-Jun-2006 at 19:03.

  2. #2
    sheena55ro Guest

    Default Re: problems with tense

    Quote Originally Posted by babyblue
    Hi, I really feel sorry I can't help but quote this long passage for my question.
    "The takeoff is no different than that of a normal airplane on a runway," says Zubrin. "But once the oxygen is loaded, the plane goes to an altitude of 128 kilometers at 2 G's (two gravities). There will be several minutes of weightlessness before re-entry, so passengers can float around the cabin. The view from the window will be like looking out of the shuttle- a black starry sky and a wide view of the Earth."
    After floating for a few minutes, you would start back down, again, at 2 G's acceleration - similar to the gravitational force you feel descending on a big roller coaster. After re-entering the atmosphere, the plane would glide like the shuttle. As you approached your destination, the pilot would start the jet engines, and land the craft like any other airplane. But this flight wouldn't have taken ten long (ususally boring) hours.
    Above is part of a reading passage titled "Here comes the rocketplanes"
    What confuses me is those two red-marked expressions.
    My question is..
    First, why "approached"? in the context where it refers to some possibilities that could happen in the future? - seems to me there's no reason to use past tense.
    Second is about "wouldn't have taken", (also the matter of tense!).
    Does it refer to something that could have occurred in the past like "If there had not been your help, I wouldn't have succeeded."? - or does the author mean something that will complete in the future, like "by the end of May, it will have taken a total of 20 weeks".
    Too long questions but what do you think?
    First,
    Try this:
    "If you approached your destination, the pilot would start the jet engines..."

    The sentence acts as an If clause type II - imaginary situation [ no future here]
    Secondly,
    ..."But this flight wouldn't have taken ten long (ususally boring) hours" if the pilot had started the jet engines[ if clause type III - but it did not happen]

  3. #3
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    Default Re: problems with tense

    Thanks a lot, sheena55ro.
    Now I understand most of what you said, and still there's something that remains unsolved to me.

    If someone says "If you had made this flight, it wouldn't have taken the usual 10 hours", it means "since you didn't make this flight, it took 10 hours as usual." ,which shows us it is based on a fact that you already experienced the ten hours, and you thought it was boring,and so on.

    but all through the context, from the start to its conclusion as well as the part I asked you about, the story was all about the future of rocketplanes, without any description on the hours experienced in our 'old fashioned' travel in contrast to the dream planes.

    In conclusion, I still don't understand why the author in the story added such a sentence all of a sudden. It doesn't seem consistent at all!

    Now I'd like to suggest the sentence "But this flight wouldn't have taken ten long (usually boring) hours" should be changed to "But this flight wouldn't take ten long (usually boring) hours". - please tell me how it sounds to you.




    Quote Originally Posted by sheena55ro
    First,
    Try this:
    "If you approached your destination, the pilot would start the jet engines..."
    The sentence acts as an If clause type II - imaginary situation [ no future here]
    Secondly,
    ..."But this flight wouldn't have taken ten long (ususally boring) hours" if the pilot had started the jet engines[ if clause type III - but it did not happen]

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: problems with tense

    What it means is that this flight would have been different from the normal long haul flight- you'd have experienced all of this but in less time.

  5. #5
    sheena55ro Guest

    Default Re: problems with tense

    Quote Originally Posted by babyblue
    Thanks a lot, sheena55ro.
    Now I understand most of what you said, and still there's something that remains unsolved to me.
    If someone says "If you had made this flight, it wouldn't have taken the usual 10 hours", it means "since you didn't make this flight, it took 10 hours as usual." ,which shows us it is based on a fact that you already experienced the ten hours, and you thought it was boring,and so on.
    but all through the context, from the start to its conclusion as well as the part I asked you about, the story was all about the future of rocketplanes, without any description on the hours experienced in our 'old fashioned' travel in contrast to the dream planes.
    In conclusion, I still don't understand why the author in the story added such a sentence all of a sudden. It doesn't seem consistent at all!
    Now I'd like to suggest the sentence "But this flight wouldn't have taken ten long (usually boring) hours" should be changed to "But this flight wouldn't take ten long (usually boring) hours". - please tell me how it sounds to you.
    In my opinion it does not seem odd, as tdol suggests too.
    It`s not the case of future here. On the contrary, "This flight wouldn`t have taken long hours..if you had flown by a plane equipped with "jet engines". However, it happened or this is a previous experience lived by those in the plane.I do not know the whole text to make it out.This sentence might be related to the author`s or other people`s experience or dreams. Have you carefully read the whole text related to this part?
    It might be a kind of "stream of counscioussness" like in Virginia Wolf`s novels[or James Joyce], when the explanation[s] come[s] later on by suggestion or the reader understands it through the lines.

    I maybe go too far with my imagination.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: problems with tense

    Well, sheena55ro.. I think I've come to understand the author's remark, with your and tdol's advice.
    The author leads readers to imagine themselves aboard the dream-plane, so the last part I asked you about was meant to read "Now you have arrived at the airport just like on an ordinary plane, but it didn't take 10 hours."
    Since the part was all described by the author's theory or our imagination, it needs to be written in a subjunctive mood, right?
    Thanks a lot... (Did I really say what you meant, introducing the way those writers wrote their works? I hope so...)


    Quote Originally Posted by sheena55ro
    In my opinion it does not seem odd, as tdol suggests too.
    It`s not the case of future here. On the contrary, "This flight wouldn`t have taken long hours..if you had flown by a plane equipped with "jet engines". However, it happened or this is a previous experience lived by those in the plane.I do not know the whole text to make it out.This sentence might be related to the author`s or other people`s experience or dreams. Have you carefully read the whole text related to this part?
    It might be a kind of "stream of counscioussness" like in Virginia Wolf`s novels[or James Joyce], when the explanation[s] come[s] later on by suggestion or the reader understands it through the lines.
    I maybe go too far with my imagination.

  7. #7
    sheena55ro Guest

    Default Re: problems with tense

    I`m glad that you have solved your problem . Your way of thinking is right, babyblue.
    I`ll help you whenever you need it, if I can, of course.
    English is not my first language and I make mistakes sometimes.

    We`ll keep in touch.
    Sheena

    ps. Rohan and Richard[tdol] are two of the best English teachers on this site, and I always follow their advice.
    Of course I cannot deny that there are many other professionals [on this site] but I have not had the opportunity to meet [know] them all yet, because I`m a newbie as you are.

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