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    #1

    Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    Hi, everyone.

    I came across the following question yesterday. Someone asked for help to do his homework. I was interested in the question and did it. It posed to me a question which I have never thought of and I want to know whether my take is correct.

    All the worries they might have felt for him____(drive) off the by the sight of his cheerful face.

    The book where the question is found seemingly suggests that only were driven is acceptable.

    I think both present and future tenses may be used, if right contexts are provided.

    For example:

    I think I can say All the worries they might have felt for him will be driven off the by the sight of his cheerful face, if the following situation occurs:

    Mr. John Smith sailed into the sea in his boat yesterday. There was a storm and he didn't returned last night. I am his neighbour and was in a conversaton with my wife concerning the matter.

    We know Mr. John Smith doesn't get along well with his relatives and has been living all alone for many years. They probably don't care much about whether Mr. John Smith is dead or not.

    Today, the relatives who have got the news gathered at Mr. John Smith's place. Their aims may merely be to find out how they can benefit from the situation. In the middle of our conversation, I received a call from my brother, who works in the local emergency department. He said that people had found Mr. John Smith who had sought harbour on an remote island. He also said Mr.s Jonh is safe and on his way home. Suppose this happened at a time there was no mobile phone network and my brother called my landline number.

    I think, the use of they might have felt can expression the meaning that this was merely a guess and I was not sure. Also, despite the fact the structure is used to express a guess linked to the past, it doesn't necessarily convey the idea that the worries doesn't exist now. So, it's correct to use the simple future tense here and a similar arguement can be extablished for the use of present tenses here.

    I would like to how you think of it.

    Many thanks

    Richard

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    You can often make contorted arguments like this, but if such acrobatics are necessary, that's probably not the answer expected.
    The future tense would be "All the worries they might/may be feeling for him will be driven off the by the sight of his cheerful face.
    You could also make a case for: All the worries they might have felt for him would be driven off the by the sight of his cheerful face" and
    "All the worries they might have felt for him will have been driven off off the by the sight of his cheerful face."
    and
    All the worries they might have felt for him would have been driven off the by the sight of his cheerful face. and others.

    'Were driven' is the answer most natives would immediately think of, and answer. It also pairs the simple past of the question with the simple past answer. This is what makes it the correct answer, not that it is the only way to fill that gap.

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    #3

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    Raymott, thank you for reading my long post.

    I am not quite sure how I should understand what you wrote in the end.

    It's not the only way to fill the gap. Given this is a question for people to choose from various tenses, I would assume you mean tense-wise there are more possibilities.

    And you said I "could also a case for" other possibilities and classified them as contorted argument.

    Would it be right, if I understand your repliy as the use of other possibilities such as will be driven off, will have been driven off, or would have been driven off, is not the first and immediate choice a native speaker would make?

    I remember 5jj, or another teacher said before that grammar rules are for the written form of the language that is used and understood by people from various English speaking nations and one would be astonished to find most of the rules he has learnt might prove to be wrong if he listens to teenagers' conversations.

    Can I further understand it as the choice of tenses other than the simple past tense is not used in written or formal English but may well be heard in conversations and encountered in fictions. I remember you once said Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a good example of how famed English writers don't follow the conventionl rules differentiating the uses of which and that, as a way to show people in real life don't strictly follow the rules. Therefore, it can't be said to be wrong if will be driven off, will have been driven off, or would have been driven off is used to fill the gap.

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    #4

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    'Were driven' is the answer most natives would immediately think of, and answer. It also pairs the simple past of the question with the simple past answer. This is what makes it the correct answer, not that it is the only way to fill that gap.
    Quote Originally Posted by cubezero3 View Post
    Would it be right, if I understand your reply as the use of other possibilities such as will be driven off, will have been driven off, or would have been driven off, is not the first and immediate choice a native speaker would make?
    Yes.

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    #5

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    Thank you for your reply, Rover_KE.

    I hope I am not too pressing.

    There is a difference between not being the first choice and being wrong. This is where I am puzzled. Raymott and you have given me a lot of useful imformation. May I ask my final question? Is it wrong to use will be driven off, will have been driven off, or would have been driven off here?

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    #6

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    Hello, cubezero.

    All the worries they might have felt for him____(drive) off the by the sight of his cheerful face.

    I assume it was a typo, but I don't think 'the' after 'off' is necessary.
    There's nothing in your sentence that tells us which tense we should use, and therefore there are several possibilities (as Raymott suggested) that can make it grammatical. It depends on the context to determine which tense should be used.

    Is it wrong to use will be driven off, will have been driven off, or would have been driven off here?
    No, it isn't. However, Raymott said:

    'Were driven' is the answer most natives would immediately think of, and answer.

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    #7

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    Thank you, my friend. It was a typo and I didn't see it in my proofreading.

    You are right. Raymott pointed out were driven is the answer. But then he went on to say:"This is what makes it the correct answer, not that it is the only way to fill that gap." It is this comment that troubles me. To me, it seems he is saying other tenses can be used as well. This lead me to wonder whether he thinks other tenses are correct and acceptable in conversations, where people very often don't follow many of the Grammar rules, or in fictions, where, according to what I read from here before, writers are allowed to break the rules as long as it is required in achieving their purposes, and as well as they know they are breaking the rules.

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    #8

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    These tests are artificial. By convention, there has to be one answer, and that answer is what the markers consider to be the most obvious.
    But language doesn't work that way. I'm surprised that you haven't come across this concept before, because we often get questions about multi-choice questions where more than one answer could technically be correct, but where there is only one expected and accepted answer.
    If I had written the question, I would expect to be challenged as you are doing. But I didn't write it, and I have no control over what passes for correctly-written multi-choice tests. While I can (sometimes) explain why one specific answer is the answer expected by the marker, that doesn't mean I endorse the question as being fair. I know it's difficult for some learners to accept and digest, but the answers in grammar books and tests are not always strictly correct in the comprehensive way that one might wish.
    I think you're also interpreting the term 'rule' too strictly. Most grammar rules are guidelines - they describe the language, rather than constrain it. Some 'rules' must be adhered to absolutely, while others are more usage suggestions. Are you familiar with the difference between prescriptivism and descriptivism?
    Last edited by Raymott; 11-Apr-2014 at 05:26. Reason: fix typo

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    #9

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    Raymott. You are really a very nice person. I thought to myself several times that perhaps I shouldn't have written my questions in such a long fashion just last night. Faced with so many requests for help, I fully understand how difficult it is for a teacher to contemplate and answer all of them. It's much more time consuming to get involved in in-depth discussions.

    As to the difference between prescriptivism and descriptivism, I have to admit that I only have seen them being mentioned here several times. I know in general descriptivism means an attitude and people wich such attitude are inclined to go with the tide, accepting language changes as they have emerged.

    I am very lucky because I gained access to this forum many years ago. My understanding of the language has grown enormously. At some point, loads of questions stormed into my mind. Would this be possible? Can I change it a bit and still get away with it? Guadually, these questions evolved. Would this tense be better than the original one? is a good example.

    I am a heavy reader. The Economist, the Guardian, the Washingtonpost, the Private-eye, the Bedford Introduction to Literature, Pride and Prejudice and so forth. I would grab anything and read it for hours. My Chinese is better than the average lot because of the same habit and I believe a lot of questions emerged when learning language can be solved this way. I guess I am kind of inclined towards descriptivism because I would in general accept, memorise and use anything I read from a good source. I listen to BBC Radio 4, 4 extra and 5 Live, as well as LBC. So I would also use languages from there.

    Having said that, I am not a native speaker and there are situations in which I have to seek advice from people in the know. I would always try using the search function and refer to my collection of books and bing.com first. But this may still look annoying, because a lot of times I feel I have to keep on pressing, just to get the teachers here to confirm whether my guess is correct or not. Though I am familiar with the idea that there are often more than one acceptable answers in a question, I very often have no faith in my judgements.

    I know it's against the rules here to have a prive chat that is not linked to language discussion. Sorry, I won't do it again. But here, since I have already broken the rules, I would want to say I am deeply moved by the help from you and other kind teachers.

    Thank you all very much.

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    #10

    Re: Am I right in thinking that I can use both present and future tenses here?

    Quote Originally Posted by cubezero3 View Post
    As to the difference between prescriptivism and descriptivism, I have to admit that I only have seen them being mentioned here several times. I know in general descriptivism means an attitude and people wich such attitude are inclined to go with the tide, accepting language changes as they have emerged.
    In broad terms, a prescriptivist says what is right and wrong about language and tells you what to use, while a descriptivist looks at what people actually use and tries to synthesise and describe how language is actually used. A prescriptivist might say that only If I were you is acceptable because we should use the subjunctive, but a descriptivist would say that as many, if not more, native speakers use If I was you as the subjunctive form, so both are acceptable. Many teachers will try to take the middle ground and say both forms are used but the were form is preferred in formal usage- the standard all-purpose phrase for avoiding many language disputes.
    Last edited by Tdol; 11-Apr-2014 at 13:37. Reason: typo

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