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    #1

    It would have been political suicide

    Hi everyone, the following sentence is from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary :

    It would have been political suicide for him to challenge the allegations in court.
    (suicide - Definition and pronunciation | Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary at OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com)

    How would you interpret this sentence? I think the usage of "would have been" has two meaning. Is the speaker describing an event in the past that didn't happen (which means he didn't challenge the allegations in court) or just making an assumption about the past?

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    Quote Originally Posted by ronmecer View Post
    Is the speaker describing an event in the past that didn't happen (which means he didn't challenge the allegations in court) or just making an assumption about the past?
    Both, in a way. The challenge did not take place; the political suicide is hypothetical..

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    #3

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    It would have been political suicide for him to challenge the allegations in court.
    You could rewrite this:
    It would have been political suicide for him if he had challenged the allegations in court.

    So I agree with 5jj- the speaker is making an assumption/assessing the hypothetical impact of an event that didn't take place.

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    #4

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    Thanks guys! However, I think it could also mean "the challenge" actually took place, right?
    The likely situation could be:

    A: I heard that John had challenged the allegations in court this morning.

    B: Wow! That would have been political suicide for him to do that.

    So, how do you determine whether "the challenge" took place or not based on this single sentence? Thanks!

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    #5

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    Quote Originally Posted by ronmecer View Post
    Thanks guys! However, I think it could also mean "the challenge" actually took place, right?
    The likely situation could be:

    A: I heard that John had challenged the allegations in court this morning.

    B: Wow! That would have been political suicide for him to do that.

    So, how do you determine whether "the challenge" took place or not based on this single sentence? Thanks!
    B's response is not correct.

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    #6

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    Quote Originally Posted by ronmecer View Post
    Thanks guys! However, I think it could also mean "the challenge" actually took place, right?
    The likely situation could be:

    A: I heard that John had challenged the allegations in court this morning.

    B: Wow! That would have been political suicide for him to do that.
    This doesn't work. B would say That is/will be political suicide, and if not convinced that this is definite That would be political suicide.

    Quote Originally Posted by ronmecer View Post
    So, how do you determine whether "the challenge" took place or not based on this single sentence? Thanks!
    By looking at the verb form used and not giving it a meaning it doesn't have- we normally use other verb forms to talk about the present.
    Last edited by Tdol; 07-Feb-2012 at 12:59.

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    #7

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    This doesn't work. B would say That is/will be political suicide, and if not convinced that this is definite That would be political suicide.
    Thanks! Tdol:)

    I wonder if B can respond "That could have been (or may have been) political suicide for him."?

    If yes, why doesn't "would have been" work here?

    Thanks!

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    #8

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    Again, the natural options are that may/could be political suicide. You could use may have been, and that is not the same as would have been for the simple reason that it is not definite- in other words, we are still waiting to find out whether he has committed political suicide. However, it is still a rather forced usage IMO.

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    #9

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    PS Could have been political suicide requires more context than given showing that it wasn't political suicide in the end for it to work for me.

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    #10

    Re: It would have been political suicide

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Again, the natural options are that may/could be political suicide. You could use may have been, and that is not the same as would have been for the simple reason that it is not definite- in other words, we are still waiting to find out whether he has committed political suicide. However, it is still a rather forced usage IMO.
    Could you tell me why may/would be political suicide sounds more natural than may/would have been political suicide here.

    Isn't the speaker making a hypothetical statement about a past event?

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