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  1. alpe 1980
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    #1

    Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    Hi all,

    I am German and spent the last six months (returned recently) in Australia in order to improve my English. It worked out reasonably well, but there are still a few areas where I struggle. One I ascribe to my German provenience is the differentiation in usage between constructions with the word 'would' and the subjunctive (Konjunktiv I and II in German).

    To make it more concrete, a couple of weeks ago I heard on the radio a lady saying: "I would have hoped we would have had the possibility to apply our legal rights in this case." My question now: Can you also say: "I had hoped, we would have had the possibility..." or even "I had hoped, we had had the possibility..." (ok, admittedly, the latter sounds absurdly wrong)?? In German, though, this usage of the 'subjunctive' would not only be perfectly fine, but also more correct ("Ich hätte gehofft, wir hätten die Gelegenheit gehabt..." as opposed to "Ich würde gehofft haben, wir würden diese Gelegenheit gehabt haben..."). It would be very interesting for me to know, where these differences in usage stem from and if it wouldn't even be correct in some strange very formal context to use my odd-sounding examples.

    I have got a second example, although this time it is more of a question: The situation is that I have a computer and a printer, both of which are not connected to each other. IN spite of this, my computer keeps telling me that it is connected to the printer (obviously an error). Now what is correct? "My computer tells me it be connected to a printer."; "My computer tells me it were connected to a printer."; "My computer tells me it would be connected to a printer." or even "My computer tells me it is connected to a printer."?

    Now this is a task for the grammar aces among you, isn't it?

    Thanks for your help!

    alpe


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    #2

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    Quote Originally Posted by alpe 1980 View Post
    Hi all,

    One I ascribe to my German provenience is the differentiation in usage between constructions with the word 'would' and the subjunctive (Konjunktiv I and II in German).

    Alpe, I don't believe that it'll help you to compare English to German, for they are different languages.

    To make it more concrete, a couple of weeks ago I heard on the radio a lady saying: "I would have hoped we would have had the possibility to apply our legal rights in this case."

    My question now: Can you also say: "I had hoped, we would have had the possibility..."

    Yes, you can say that, Alpe. Using 'would' is more emotive while 'had' is more a statement of straight fact.

    or even "I had hoped, we had had the possibility..." (ok, admittedly, the latter sounds absurdly wrong)??

    It sounds strange because it is semantically strange. It could see use but I just can't see a situation for it now. If we change the word from "possibility" to 'chance',


    We had demanded that we had been given that possibility



    In German, though, this usage of the 'subjunctive' would not only be perfectly fine, but also more correct ("Ich hätte gehofft, wir hätten die Gelegenheit gehabt..." as opposed to "Ich würde gehofft haben, wir würden diese Gelegenheit gehabt haben..."). It would be very interesting for me to know, where these differences in usage stem from and if it wouldn't even be correct in some strange very formal context to use my odd-sounding examples.

    I have got a second example, although this time it is more of a question: The situation is that I have a computer and a printer, both of which are not connected to each other. IN spite of this, my computer keeps telling me that it is connected to the printer (obviously an error). Now what is correct? "My computer tells me it be connected to a printer."; "My computer tells me it were connected to a printer."; "My computer tells me it would be connected to a printer." or even "My computer tells me it is connected to a printer."?

    The fourth is the only really natural one. The first is an older form of English that is possible, but not at all common today. The second and third ones, no.

    Now this is a task for the grammar aces among you, isn't it?

    Thanks for your help!

    alpe
    ##
    Last edited by riverkid; 07-Oct-2007 at 19:48.

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    , especially this: "Using 'would' is more emotive while 'had' is more a statement of straight fact."

    "I would have thought" is often a statement about the normal expectation of a reasonable person: 'I would have thought that there'd be a flight direct from A to B; but it turns out that you have to go via C.'

    "I had thought" is a statement about something that actually happened - synapses actually fired in the speaker's brain: 'I had thought I could get it done before lunch, but it took all day.' (Of course, if any reasonable person might have made the same estimate, it would be possible to say 'I would have thought I could get it done before lunch' - but that would be an estimate; the speaker might say this over breakfast!)

    b


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    #4

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    , especially this: "Using 'would' is more emotive while 'had' is more a statement of straight fact."

    "I would have thought" is often a statement about the normal expectation of a reasonable person: 'I would have thought that there'd be a flight direct from A to B; but it turns out that you have to go via C.'

    "I had thought" is a statement about something that actually happened - synapses actually fired in the speaker's brain: 'I had thought I could get it done before lunch, but it took all day.' (Of course, if any reasonable person might have made the same estimate, it would be possible to say 'I would have thought I could get it done before lunch' - but that would be an estimate; the speaker might say this over breakfast!)

    b
    BobK is right and I made a boo-boo.

    In 'if' conditionals,

    "Using 'would' is more emotive while 'had' is more a statement of straight fact.".


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    #5

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for your answers, first of all.

    Unfortunately, they did not quite hit the mark. I should have made myself clearer in the first place. I am well aware of the difference in meaning between a past perfect ('I had hoped') and the more wishful-thinking like (if you will) 'I would have hoped'. The reason for my confusion has been that this obviously clear distinction between a statement of fact (without modals like would) and a statement of a desired state (with modals like would) doesn't quite hold true when it comes to subjunctives, especially in if-sentences. Here you use 'if I had had the chance, I would have done...'. From a strict theoretical point of view there should be no reason why the versions 'if I would have had the chance, I would have done...' ore even 'if I had had the chance, I had done...' are not correct (although I know they are, of course). And this finally lead me to the question whether this usage of the subjunctive as in if-sentences would be correct in other circumstances, e.g. in the example I have given, as well. Since I presume that it is most probably not, I wanted to know why.

    Any further guesses on this?

    Thanks!


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    #6

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    [QUOTE=alpe1980;216382] Hi Guys,

    Thanks for your answers, first of all.

    On behalf of BobK and myself, you're most welcome, Alpe.

    Quote Originally Posted by alpe1980 View Post
    The reason for my confusion has been that this obviously clear distinction between a statement of fact (without modals like would) and a statement of a desired state (with modals like would) doesn't quite hold true when it comes to subjunctives, especially in if-sentences.

    Here you use 'if I had had the chance, I would have done...'. From a strict theoretical point of view there should be no reason why the versions 'if I would have had the chance, I would have done...' or even 'if I had had the chance, I had done...' are not correct (although I know they are, of course).

    And this finally leads me to the question whether this usage of the subjunctive as in if-sentences would be correct in other circumstances, e.g. in the example I have given, as well. Since I presume that it is most probably not, I wanted to know why.

    Any further guesses on this?

    Thanks!
    It's not really a matter of correct, Alpe. Both are grammatical, in the sense that all the words are there, and they are in the correct order. And actually, the first, "If I would have ..." is in quite common use in English.

    The second, 'if I had had the chance, I had done...', while fully grammatical, sees no use in English because it is semantically nonsensical.

    In the 'if' clause, a theoretical/opposite to fact situation has been set up. Once this occurs, ie. a clear counterfactual, we no longer speak, in English, using words that describe fact, which 'had' does'. We use modals, words that reflect this theoretical world.

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    #7

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    As a footnote:

    1. If I had had the chance, I had done X.

    As Riverkid says, this form is no longer current, except as a deliberate archaism. In earlier forms of English, however, "had" took the place of "would have", in this construction (sometimes called the type III conditional); it was a pluperfect subjunctive.

    When I run across an example, I'll post it here.

    MrP
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    #8

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    As a footnote:

    1. If I had had the chance, I had done X.

    As Riverkid says, this form is no longer current, except as a deliberate archaism. In earlier forms of English, however, "had" took the place of "would have", in this construction (sometimes called the type III conditional); it was a pluperfect subjunctive.

    When I run across an example, I'll post it here.

    MrP
    That's very interesting, Mr P. I can't make any claims to offering that "this form is no longer current" because actually, I didn't realize that it was used in older forms of English. I look forward to seeing some examples.

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    Quote Originally Posted by MrPedantic View Post
    As a footnote:

    1. If I had had the chance, I had done X.

    As Riverkid says, this form is no longer current, except as a deliberate archaism. In earlier forms of English, however, "had" took the place of "would have", in this construction (sometimes called the type III conditional); it was a pluperfect subjunctive.

    When I run across an example, I'll post it here.

    MrP
    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    That's very interesting, Mr P. I can't make any claims to offering that "this form is no longer current" because actually, I didn't realize that it was used in older forms of English. I look forward to seeing some examples.
    Yes - when riverkid said 'nonsensical' he meant 'nonsensical given current English's use of modals for counterfactuals. Shakespeare used had in what might be called today '3rd conditionals'. (I'm afraid no examples come to mind, but I'll have a look.)

    b

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    #10

    Re: Subjunctive vs. 'would'

    Good tip, Bob:

    1. 'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst been poor John. (Romeo and Juliet, Act I sc. i)

    — i.e. if thou hadst (been fish), thou would have been poor John.

    2. Masters, the Duke is coming from the temple; and there is two or three lords and ladies more married. If our sport had gone forward, we had all been made men. (Midsummer's Night's Dream, Act IV sc. ii)

    But he uses the "would have" form too:

    3. Why, so it would have done at the same season, if your mother's cat had but kittened, though yourself had never been born. (Henry IV Pt 1, Act III sc. i)

    Although the original question dealt with counterfactuals, it might be worth adding that the use of the past perfect in main clauses to concessive (i.e. not counterfactual) if-clauses is still current:

    4. If she had encountered some storms and buffeting, she had at least escaped being either shipwrecked or becalmed. (The Unbearable Bassington, by Saki)

    MrP
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