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Thread: Backshift

  1. #1
    munchun2004 Guest

    Backshift

    1) I have some question on the tenses backshift problem. Is the following sentence correct?
    a) I wish we had this talk before I went to Law school.
    Or should we change it to:
    ai) I wish we had had this talk before I went to Law school.

    I often hear that people don’t use backshift when they are talking in third conditional or after the word ‘wish’. Following are the examples:
    b) You are a telepathist. If you weren't who you are this morning, we all would be dead by now.
    c) I wish I never built this house.
    Shouldn’t they be:
    bi) You are a telepathist. If you hadn’t been who you were this morning, we all would be dead by now.
    ci) I wish I had never had built this house.

    Example b sounds correct to me but if I am to follow grammar rule, I would choose example bi as my answer. I tried to analyze the sentences but I couldn’t find the answer.


    2) When we use ‘wish’ in the past tense sentence, should we double backshift for what we say like the example below?
    a) When the great depression happened, I really wished there was somebody there to help me solve my financial problem.
    to,
    b) When the great depression happened, I really wished there had been somebody there to help me solve my financial problem.

  2. #2
    Mister Micawber's Avatar
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    Re: Backshift

    Hi Munchun,

    I think you understand it correctly. The proper sentences are (with a little repair work):

    ai) I wish we had had this talk before I went to law school.

    bi) You are a telepathist. If you hadn’t been who you were this morning, we would all have been dead by now.

    ci) I wish I had never built this house.

    2b) When the great depression happened, I really wished there had been somebody to help me solve my financial problems.


    Back shift-- and other grammatical niceties-- do not always happen in the spoken language: we are often too busy talking and communicating to pay careful attention to our grammar.

  3. #3
    munchun2004 Guest

    Re: Backshift

    Thanks for you answers Mister Micawber. I finally got it right now.

  4. #4
    munchun2004 Guest

    Re: Backshift

    I thought I got it all right but suddenly another arose when I thought about the English third conditional/subjunctive case. For example, if I am making a sentence like 'If I were him', and the sentence also contains 'past wishes' statement, should I tripple backshife the tenses? Example:

    a) If I were him, I would have wished the new nuclear device that causes mass destruction hadn't had been created for the sake of mankind. If it was the case, the Kristano Island wouldn't have been sunk and now we could be having a party at the Island shore right now.

    The sentence above sounds weird to me. I backshift the sentence tripple time and my head kind blurred. Could the above sentence be right?

    If sentence a is right, does that mean we have to backshift as many time as we have to when we are talking about 'If I were him, I would think that if I had had been Andrew when the accident happened, what I would have had done to prevent the accident from happening. If I were him and he had thought of Andrew situation, as Andrew, I would have had wished that nobody had had been there when the accident happened so nobody would have had got hurt in that accident.

    Do we really have to add multiple 'had' into this type of sentence 'if I were him and if he had been her'? Is that mean when the 'If I were you, you were Jack, Jack were Aunt..." grows multiple time, the adding of 'had' in the sentence grow multiple time as well? I think there must be a way to route through this problem but I don't know how.

  5. #5
    Steven D's Avatar
    Steven D is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Backshift

    Quote Originally Posted by munchun2004
    1) I have some question on the tenses backshift problem. Is the following sentence correct?
    a) I wish we had this talk before I went to Law school.
    Or should we change it to:
    ai) I wish we had had this talk before I went to Law school.

    I often hear that people don’t use backshift when they are talking in third conditional or after the word ‘wish’. Following are the examples:
    b) You are a telepathist. If you weren't who you are this morning, we all would be dead by now.
    c) I wish I never built this house.
    Shouldn’t they be:
    bi) You are a telepathist. If you hadn’t been who you were this morning, we all would be dead by now.
    ci) I wish I had never had built this house.

    Example b sounds correct to me but if I am to follow grammar rule, I would choose example bi as my answer. I tried to analyze the sentences but I couldn’t find the answer.


    2) When we use ‘wish’ in the past tense sentence, should we double backshift for what we say like the example below?
    a) When the great depression happened, I really wished there was somebody there to help me solve my financial problem.
    to,
    b) When the great depression happened, I really wished there had been somebody there to help me solve my financial problem.
    1) I have some question on the tenses backshift problem. Is the following sentence correct?
    a) I wish we had this talk before I went to Law school.
    Or should we change it to:
    ai) I wish we had had this talk before I went to Law school. <<


    Both sentences are correct. I would use either.

    I often hear that people don’t use backshift when they are talking in third conditional or after the word ‘wish’. Following are the examples:
    b) You are a telepathist. If you weren't who you are this morning, we all would be dead by now.
    c) I wish I never built this house.
    Shouldn’t they be:
    bi) You are a telepathist. If you hadn’t been who you were this morning, we all would be dead by now.
    ci) I wish I had never had built this house.

    Example b sounds correct to me but if I am to follow grammar rule, I would choose example bi as my answer. I tried to analyze the sentences but I couldn’t find the answer. <<

    The simple past can follow "wish". It is also possible to use the simple past in a third conditional. I would call it a mixed conditional. In any event, both sentences are correct.


    2) When we use ‘wish’ in the past tense sentence, should we double backshift for what we say like the example below?
    a) When the great depression happened, I really wished there was somebody there to help me solve my financial problem.
    to,
    b) When the great depression happened, I really wished there had been somebody there to help me solve my financial problem. <<

    Either one is correct. However, in this case "had been" is better I would say. This is probably because the sentence refers to something that is very much in the past and complete.

    __________________________________________________ __________

    Sometimes context determines the meaning in a "wish" conditional.

    I wish I knew. - Depending on the context this could mean that you wish you knew now or in the past. -

    "I wish I knew what they meant then, but I didnt'." past

    "I wish I knew what they meant, but I don't." present

    I wish I had known. - This always means that you wish you knew about something in the past, but didn't.

    "I wish had known what they meant, but I didn't." - past


    1. "I wish I knew what you were talking about."

    2. "I wish I had known what you were talking about."

    Both 1 and 2 are correct.

    Sentence number 1 could be used in reference to something in present time or past time. The context would determine this.

  6. #6
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    Wink Re: Backshift

    1. "I wish I knew what you were talking about."
    Sentence number 1 could be used in reference to something in present time or past time. The context would determine this.
    X Mode,

    I can't think of any example now about #1 being used in reference to something in past time. Would you mind letting one cat out of your bag?



    Regards,
    Blacknomi

  7. #7
    Steven D's Avatar
    Steven D is offline Senior Member
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    Re: Backshift

    Quote Originally Posted by blacknomi
    X Mode,

    I can't think of any example now about #1 being used in reference to something in past time. Would you mind letting one cat out of your bag?



    Regards,
    Blacknomi
    How's this?

    I can't think of a better example now.

    Remember when we were talking last week? I didn't understand what you were saying. I understand what you mean now. I wish I knew what you were talking about then. It would've been a lot easier.

    also - I wish I had known what you were talking about.

  8. #8
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    Re: Backshift

    I'm glad that I know what you were talking about. You just refreshed my memory. Thanks, my friend.



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