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  1. #1
    KLPNO is offline Senior Member
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    set up; wouldn't

    Hello everyone

    I'd like to ask two things about the following passage:

    My wife and I had just arrived at our favorite vacation spot on
    the Northern California coast. The weather was beautiful,
    the air fresh and cool. I had set up my laptop and was ready to add
    the finishing touches to this manuscript. But it wouldn’t turn out that
    way, at least not for several days.


    Does "set up" mean "turned on"?


    Does "wouldn't" mean "didn't"?

  2. #2
    colloquium is offline Senior Member
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    Re: set up; wouldn't

    Your interpretation of set up is fine.

    Wouldn't can be understood to mean didn't: but there is a specific reason for the use of would here.

    At the time, he thought he would be able to finish his manuscript, but circumstances prevented him from doing that. He is explaining how something which he hoped to do at a point in the past did not turn out the way he expected. He is expressing a sense of future time in the past; he is not able to use will in this context.

    I hoped to finish my manuscript, but it turned out that I won't (will not) be able to finish it, at least not for several days.

    This sentence is incorrect. To express a future sense in the past, we use would.

    Many years ago when I was a student, I had no idea that I would become a successful businessman.

    It can be thought of as a past equivalent of will.

    I am not a teacher.

  3. #3
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    Re: set up; wouldn't

    My wife and I had just arrived at our favorite vacation spot on the Northern California coast. The weather was beautiful, the air fresh and cool. I had set up my laptop and was ready to add the finishing touches to this manuscript. But it wouldn’t turn out that way, at least not for several days.

    Look carefully at the sequence of tenses in the sentence:

    <..had arrived>(past perfect)| weather was beautiful (past tense) - 'setting up the computer' is the next action in the sequence, but the sentence goes back to a past perfect form : 'had set up'

    One might expect the segment to read:

    The weather was beautiful, the air fresh and cool. I set up my laptop and was ready to add the finishing touches to this manuscript.

    What meaning/effect does it have, when the past perfect is re-introduced? Any thoughts anyone?

  4. #4
    colloquium is offline Senior Member
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    Re: set up; wouldn't

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    My wife and I had just arrived at our favorite vacation spot on the Northern California coast. The weather was beautiful, the air fresh and cool. I had set up my laptop and was ready to add the finishing touches to this manuscript. But it wouldn’t turn out that way, at least not for several days.

    Look carefully at the sequence of tenses in the sentence:

    <..had arrived>(past perfect)| weather was beautiful (past tense) - 'setting up the computer' is the next action in the sequence, but the sentence goes back to a past perfect form : 'had set up'

    One might expect the segment to read:

    The weather was beautiful, the air fresh and cool. I set up my laptop and was ready to add the finishing touches to this manuscript.

    What meaning/effect does it have, when the past perfect is re-introduced? Any thoughts anyone?
    I am a native speaker, but still a learner nonetheless. Under the assumption that no one else is going to attempt an explanation, I'll try.

    The past perfect deviates from the strict narrative chain of events.

    I had set up my laptop and was ready to add the finishing touches to this manuscript.

    The sentence presents two tensed verbs: had (set up) and was (to add being an infinitive). To me, this means: at the moment of being
    ready to add the finishing touches to my manuscript, the lap top was already set up.

    If he had wanted to present the story sticking to the narrative chain of events (using primary tenses) he may have written

    I set up my laptop and got ready to add the finishing touches to my manuscript



  5. #5
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    Re: set up; wouldn't

    To me, this means: at the moment of being ready to add the finishing touches to my manuscript, the lap top was already set up.

    Exactly! BUT - if our language rules are clear, and we trust the writer has chosen his tenses carefully, then rather than having made a mistake, and the meaning " sloppy wordsmith', it has a different meaning/effect as I hinted at in my post:

    What meaning/effect does it have, when the past perfect is re-introduced?
    Want to keep going on this one??

  6. #6
    colloquium is offline Senior Member
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    Re: set up; wouldn't

    Quote Originally Posted by David L. View Post
    To me, this means: at the moment of being ready to add the finishing touches to my manuscript, the lap top was already set up.

    Exactly! BUT - if our language rules are clear, and we trust the writer has chosen his tenses carefully, then rather than having made a mistake, and the meaning " sloppy wordsmith', it has a different meaning/effect as I hinted at in my post:

    What meaning/effect does it have, when the past perfect is re-introduced?
    Want to keep going on this one??

    Okay, I think I have it.

    When had he set up the laptop? They had just arrived. Could he have set the laptop up a little bit earlier in the day? A week earlier? Impossible! The story clearly states that they had just arrived.

    Furthermore, if I underline all of the finite verbs it becomes clear that only two of them are predicators - both part of past perfect verb phrases. Past perfect verb tenses (or more generally secondary verb tenses) cannot be present without primary verbs; otherwise what would they be secondary to?

    My wife and I had just arrived at our favorite vacation spot on the Northern California coast. The weather was beautiful, the air fresh and cool. I had set up my laptop and was ready to add the finishing touches to this manuscript.

    So does the story suggest that the laptop was setup prior to their arrival? Is that the effect of the past perfect being introduced?

    Is that it? Is this what you have in mind David? Or am I way, way, way off? Please offer your explanation.




  7. #7
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    Re: set up; wouldn't

    Sorry for the delay. I was called away for two days on business.

    It may well be that the feature of this paragraph I want to comment on was written by accident rather than design; but it offers an opportunity to note a device that writers of fiction employ for a specific purpose.
    The Past Perfect form of the verb is used specifically to place one action further back in time than another. It is not obligatory, since the order of simple past tense actions will be obvious from their sequence in the text. So why bother to use PP?

    If somebody asks me, “Where have you been? We were looking for you”; and I respond, “I went to the shop to buy a newspaper.”….they may then ask, “Anything interesting in the news?”
    Here, my statement is complete in itself, and has expressed the important action/event.

    But, if I say, “I had just gone to the shop to buy a newspaper.” and stop, the person will respond, “and what happened?” Because, by placing one action or event further back in time than another, it indicates to the listener that some other action or event occurred subsequent to it; and that this subsequent action is likely to be more important/significant than that expressed in the Past Perfect:
    “I had just gone to the shop to buy a newspaper – I thought I’d only be gone a couple of minutes – but this man runs into the shop and pulls a gun. We all had to lie on the floor and….”

    In the passage posted:
    My wife and I had just arrived at our favorite vacation spot on the Northern California coast. The weather was beautiful, the air fresh and cool. I had set up my laptop and was ready to add the finishing touches to this manuscript. But it wouldn’t turn out that way, at least not for several days.

    We have the Past Perfect ‘had arrived’ and the next sentence in the simple Past. So far, normal. It’s about a vacation, and the weather for it is fine. Maybe we are going to hear about picnics and hiking and swimming….
    But then the Past Perfect is reintroduced. Firstly, this suggests that what has just gone before is not really what is important, not what this passage is really all about – it’s just what they themselves originally thought they had planned: a pleasant vacation with nice weather. And – being the Past Perfect, we now anticipate that this new statement in the PP is also not the important event, but the event that it signals is to follow. The writer has created suspense – all this 'pleasantness' is about to be interrupted by something else, something ‘unpleasant’.
    Does it then follow in the story? Damn it, no. Instead, the writer builds the suspense even further by further indicating some abrupt interruption; and that this event seems to have changed their intended routine for some days: ‘not turn out that way, at least not for several days.’

    What happened, damn you!?

    At the end of reading the post, weren’t you intrigued as to what happened? It grabbed my curiosity!

  8. #8
    KLPNO is offline Senior Member
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    Re: set up; wouldn't

    The passage that goes immediately the one I posted in this thread reads as follows:

    A few days before we left for this ten-day retreat, I received a phone
    call from the renowned modern-day mystic, healer, and avatar Ron Roth,
    telling me I should watch the television show Ghost Hunters. It would “deal
    with some aspects of spirits that should be included in the manuscript”
    he knew I was writing. “Without that, the book is incomplete,” he said.
    I had already heard of that series and had actually seen an episode
    or two. They had not captured my interest at all. I was able to see
    another episode that same evening and found it equally uninspiring.
    But then, that night, I was reminded of some pictures my friend Dana
    Duryea had sent me several weeks ago.

    After that there are some passages in which the author writes that Dana asked him to improve some pictures with the computer. And then...

    Then, on the day we left for our vacation, two books arrived
    from Ron Roth. They were heavily marked up, and in a brief note he
    suggested I might want to study them. I added the books to our luggage,
    and off we went.
    When I had unpacked my computer and was ready to work on the manuscript, these two books, along with other reading material Ron had suggested, grabbed my attention, and the book editing project was set aside.

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