Student or Learner
What's the difference between these senetences? Do they all carry the same meaning?
He talked to alice like an adult.
He talked to alice as if he was an adult.
He talked to alice as if he had been an adult.
Thanks very much.
Last edited by e2e4; 27-Oct-2010 at 21:39.
Thanks for the answers.
I actually wanted to attribute the asjective ''adult'' to the pronoun ''he'' not to ''Alice''.
He talked to Alice as if he were an adult. - This unambiguous, but the correct meaning will also be obvious if a context is given.
He talked to Alice as if he had been an adult.I'm not so keen on this one personally. You don't need the past perfect here.
In any case, they all mean more or less the same.
There are, however, a number of issues relating to #2 and #3: although 'as if' represents, in origin, a hypothetical conditional, many contemporary users do not follow the strict sequence of tenses that this would generally necessitate, substituting indicative for subjunctive tense-forms. Others, however, especially if adopting a more formal/traditional style, stick closely to the typical conditional sentence tense-patterns. Hence, with actual present reference, we might get either
 He talks to me as if I'm stupid.
[1a] He talks to me as if I were stupid.
(traditional/formal. Cf. second conditional as he would do if I were...)
And similarly, with actual past reference, either
 He talked to me as if I was stupid.
[2a] He talked to me as if I had been stupid.
(CF. 3rd conditional as he would have done if I had been...)
The problem with the use of the formal/traditional pattern is that it lacks a means of distinguishing between two significantly different meanings of sentences such as [2a], i.e. between
He talked to me as if I had been stupid (i.e. at the time at which we were speaking).
He talked to me as if I had been stupid (at some previous time, e.g. to have committed some foolish action prior to our conversation).
and, for this reason, the popular form is probably to be preferred.
However, given that, in reality, the two systems are likely to coexist for some time to come, there is always likely, especially where the main verb is a past tense form, to be some risk of ambiguity, usually leaving the listener to decide, based on the usual combination of situational inference and common sense, on the intended set of time relations.
He talked to Alice as if he was/were an adult. (but he's a lad)
He talked to Alice as if she was/were an adult. (she's a lass)
Hm, I've noticed something.
To attribute a non-attributive adjective "adult" in this sentence to "he" doesn't mean to put it before the pronoun he.
"attribute" is noun. "Attributive" could be adjective.
attribute isn't verb. (according to my dictionary)
but "attribute to" is phrasal verb.
Would a teacher explain this?
Verbs function in many different ways: some must always be followed by a subject, others cannot be followed by an object, some are rarely used in the progressive, etc. It just happens that attribute is one of those verbs that are used only with a direct object* and, usually, with the preposition to. Here is an example without the preposition from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary:
The committee refused to attribute blame without further information
*Though in passive constructions this will become the subject.
Last edited by 5jj; 28-Oct-2010 at 11:22. Reason: bad punctuation