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  1. #1
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    Default Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    Hi, I've been answering practice exams in ACT and I find it difficult using these words: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, and Has. When should I use them and not Thank you very much!

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    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    Quote Originally Posted by badoods View Post
    Hi, I've been answering practice exams in ACT and I find it difficult using these words: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, and Has. When should I use them and not Thank you very much!
    This is way way way too big a project for one small thread, Badood. These verbs do a large number of varying tasks in English so to try to cover their meanings and uses in one thread is virtually impossible.

    Why not try starting with one specific question? What's the old saying, "the longest journey starts with one step", or something like that.

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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    OK, let's start with "have". This is a verb, which is sometimes a main verb and sometimes a helping verb. When it is a main verb, it usually means "to possess", as in: "I have a dog."

    As a helping verb, however, it is used to make the present perfect. This is formed using the verb "have" in the present tense, and the past participle; as in: "I have made a cake."

    "Has" is simply the third person singular of "have". The third person singular is "he", "she" or "it"; or "Peter", "Sally", "the man with the wooden leg", "the old woman who lives in a shoe", or whatever. So: "I have made a cake," but "Peter has made a cake."

    "Had" is also part of the verb "have". It can be either the simple past tense form, or the past participle.

    As a simple past tense, it can mean the same as "possessed": "We had a dog, but it died last year." It can also be used to form the past perfect: "I had made a cake..."

    As a past participle, "had" is used to make the present perfect and the past perfect of "have": "I have had some problems," and, "I had had some problems."

    The other three verbs are more complicated; they are examples of so-called modal verbs. In their form, they are the past tense forms of "will", "shall" and "can", and you may sometimes see them used that way: "I could do this when I was younger, but now I can't."

    However, modal verbs in the past tense are also used to talk about hypothetical situations -- situations that are not real, pure fantasy. This is true of "would" and "could", and sometimes (but not often) "should":

    If I ruled the world [but I don't], every day would be the first day of June.
    If I had a crystal ball [but I don't], I could see into the future.
    If I saw a robbery [but I don't think I ever will], I would/should call the police.

    "Should" also has a very special meaning: it indicates important advice.

    That wound looks terrible -- you should see a doctor! [You may die if you don't]
    If you don't want to go to jail, you should pay your taxes. [It's the law, and I really think you should do this]
    You shouldn't bully people. [It's morally wrong]

    That's just a very, very brief summary. As riverkid says, it's such a big question...

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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    I get it now, thanks for the summary.

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    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    rewboss:
    The other three verbs are more complicated; they are examples of so-called modal verbs. In their form, they are the past tense forms of "will", "shall" and "can", and you may sometimes see them used that way: "I could do this when I was younger, but now I can't."

    I'm afraid that this is not an example of 'could' being used as a past tense, Rewboss. The connection between 'can' and 'could' here is "a semantic one, not a syntactic one".

    Both 'can' and 'could' refer to general abilities and it's natural that the job of describing a general ability in the past should fall to 'could', which was of course once a past tense form but is no longer in modern English.

    If there was the syntactic connection you believe is there then it would be possible for this "past tense" could to do what past tenses actually do, describe a singular event.

    Can you use "I could jump five feet" as a past tense description of "I can jump five feet"?

    Rewboss: I can jump five feet. [jumps]

    Rewboss: *See, I could jump five feet.*



    However, modal verbs in the past tense are also used to talk about hypothetical situations -- situations that are not real, pure fantasy. This is true of "would" and "could", and sometimes (but not often) "should":

    If I ruled the world [but I don't], every day would be the first day of June.
    If I had a crystal ball [but I don't], I could see into the future.
    If I saw a robbery [but I don't think I ever will], I would/should call the police.

    Historical past tense modal verbs are used for such a purpose but so are the historical present tense modals.

    [the word 'historical' is used to illustrate that these modals once had tense in older forms of English. In the English of today, they are of course tenseless modal verbs.]

    If I rule the world [but I don't], every day will be the first day of June.
    If I am given a crystal ball [but I won't be], I can see into the future.
    If I see a robbery [but I don't think I ever will], I will/should/shall call the police.

    Granted, these may not be as common as Rewboss's forms but they certainly are possible.

    Such is part of the difficulties that I suggested could arise when dealing with such an expansive topic in so short a space. I do applaud Rewboss's attempts to unravel these mysteries.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    rewboss:
    The other three verbs are more complicated; they are examples of so-called modal verbs. In their form, they are the past tense forms of "will", "shall" and "can", and you may sometimes see them used that way: "I could do this when I was younger, but now I can't."

    I'm afraid that this is not an example of 'could' being used as a past tense, Rewboss. The connection between 'can' and 'could' here is "a semantic one, not a syntactic one".

    Both 'can' and 'could' refer to general abilities and it's natural that the job of describing a general ability in the past should fall to 'could', which was of course once a past tense form but is no longer in modern English.

    If there was the syntactic connection you believe is there then it would be possible for this "past tense" could to do what past tenses actually do, describe a singular event.

    Can you use "I could jump five feet" as a past tense description of "I can jump five feet"?

    Rewboss: I can jump five feet. [jumps]

    Rewboss: *See, I could jump five feet.*



    However, modal verbs in the past tense are also used to talk about hypothetical situations -- situations that are not real, pure fantasy. This is true of "would" and "could", and sometimes (but not often) "should":

    If I ruled the world [but I don't], every day would be the first day of June.
    If I had a crystal ball [but I don't], I could see into the future.
    If I saw a robbery [but I don't think I ever will], I would/should call the police.

    Historical past tense modal verbs are used for such a purpose but so are the historical present tense modals.

    [the word 'historical' is used to illustrate that these modals once had tense in older forms of English. In the English of today, they are of course tenseless modal verbs.]

    If I rule the world [but I don't], every day will be the first day of June.
    If I am given a crystal ball [but I won't be], I can see into the future.
    If I see a robbery [but I don't think I ever will], I will/should/shall call the police.

    Granted, these may not be as common as Rewboss's forms but they certainly are possible.

    Such is part of the difficulties that I suggested could arise when dealing with such an expansive topic in so short a space. I do applaud Rewboss's attempts to unravel these mysteries.
    Can you use "I could jump five feet" as a past tense description of "I can jump five feet"?

    Rewboss: I can jump five feet. [jumps]

    Rewboss: *See, I could jump five feet.*

    Yes, but that is not a very good example of "could" for past tense. A better example is:

    Last year I could run three miles. Now I can run five miles.

    In those sentences, "could" is past tense and past time; "can" is present tense and present time.

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    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    MikeNewYork: Can you use "I could jump five feet" as a past tense description of "I can jump five feet"?

    Rewboss: I can jump five feet. [jumps]

    Rewboss: *See, I could jump five feet.*

    Yes, but that is not a very good example of "could" for past tense. A better example is:


    Good day to you, Mike.

    Not 'yes', Mike, the answer is "No, you can't. Even in your new example the reference is not to a specific situation but to a general condition. 'could' refuses to be used as a specific reference past tense because of its tenseless nature.



    Last year I could run three miles. Now I can run five miles.

    In those sentences, "could" is past tense and past time; "can" is present tense and present time.

    'could', in this sentence, describes the modal meaning of past general ability and it can jump into the present in a heartbeat.

    Last year I could run three miles. Now I could run five miles if I wanted to.

    You're still confusing the semantic connection between 'can' and 'could' with a syntactic one that isn't there. How do we know this? Because 'could' still can't be used to refer to a single instance; for that we ENLs switch to 'was able'.

    On December 10, 2005, I could run three miles in a race with my brother.*

    On December 10, 2005, I was able to run three miles in a race with my brother.

    The modal 'would' also describes a past general condition/habit but it too can't be used to describe a singular situation and with these two, 'will/would' the semantic connection is much weaker than with 'can/could'.

    We just can't make that connection with these two that is there for 'can/could' Why? Modal meaning.

    I will visit London next week.

    *I would visit London last week.*

    Move to 'may/might' and 'shall/should' and the connection becomes even more tenuous. Why? Again, modal meaning, nothing to do with tense.

    I may visit London next week.

    *I might visit London last week.*

    I shall visit London next week.

    *I should visit London last week.*

    Last edited by riverkid; 27-Oct-2006 at 16:07.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    MikeNewYork: Can you use "I could jump five feet" as a past tense description of "I can jump five feet"?

    Rewboss: I can jump five feet. [jumps]

    Rewboss: *See, I could jump five feet.*

    Yes, but that is not a very good example of "could" for past tense. A better example is:


    Good day to you, Mike.

    Not 'yes', Mike, the answer is "No, you can't. Even in your new example the reference is not to a specific situation but to a general condition. 'could' refuses to be used as a specific reference past tense because of its tenseless nature.



    Last year I could run three miles. Now I can run five miles.

    In those sentences, "could" is past tense and past time; "can" is present tense and present time.

    'could', in this sentence, describes the modal meaning of past general ability and it can jump into the present in a heartbeat.

    Last year I could run three miles. Now I could run five miles if I wanted to.

    You're still confusing the semantic connection between 'can' and 'could' with a syntactic one that isn't there. How do we know this? Because 'could' still can't be used to refer to a single instance; for that we ENLs switch to 'was able'.

    On December 10, 2005, I could run three miles in a race with my brother.*

    On December 10, 2005, I was able to run three miles in a race with my brother.

    The modal 'would' also describes a past general condition/habit but it too can't be used to describe a singular situation and with these two, 'will/would' the semantic connection is much weaker than with 'can/could'.

    We just can't make that connection with these two that is there for 'can/could' Why? Modal meaning.

    I will visit London next week.

    *I would visit London last week.*

    Move to 'may/might' and 'shall/should' and the connection becomes even more tenuous. Why? Again, modal meaning, nothing to do with tense.

    I may visit London next week.

    *I might visit London last week.*

    I shall visit London next week.

    *I should visit London last week.*
    I'm not confused at all. You keep redefining "tense" to suit your "theory" about tenseless modals.

    Could is the past tense of can. It does not always refer to past time, but it can be used to do so. It is a "form" -- and that "form" is called the past tense.

    I am not going to respond to all of your examples, because the one I gave you is perfectly serviceable.

    Last year I could only run three miles. Now, I can run five miles.

    The first is in the past; the second is in the present.

    One cannot say "Last year, I can only run three miles." That is because it requires a past tense verb.

  9. #9
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    One cannot say "Last year, I can only run three miles." That is because it requires a past tense verb.
    Last year he can't have run three miles. He's been a quadriplegic for two years.

    Now we have, according to you, a present tense verb describing a past tense situation.

  10. #10
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Would, Should, Could, Have, Had, Has

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    I'm not confused at all.
    You might not be confused but you are confusing semantic versus syntactic. Is it then deliberate?

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