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    #1

    'Would' to suggest a longing

    'I would have liked to be a ballet dancer.' How does this fit into the English grammar? Are there any guidelines in using 'would' in this way?


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    #2

    Re: 'Would' to suggest a longing

    Quote Originally Posted by plumedematante View Post
    'I would have liked to be a ballet dancer.' How does this fit into the English grammar? Are there any guidelines in using 'would' in this way?
    I think would can be seen as expressing a wish in this context.

    I would have prefered to study at Oxford.

    However I'm not sure whether or not you should use the perfect infinitive.

    I would have liked to have been a ballet dancer.



    I am not a teacher.
    Last edited by colloquium; 13-Aug-2008 at 14:08.

  1. BobK's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: 'Would' to suggest a longing

    Quote Originally Posted by colloquium View Post
    ...[/B]However I'm not sure whether or not you should use the perfect infinitive.

    I would have liked to have been a ballet dancer.



    I am not a teacher.
    It's almost certainly 'hypercorrect' (that is, mistaken because of trying too hard to 'get it right'. The question is, when did the wish occur? If the wish was in the past, then 'I would have liked to be....' If the wish is in the present, about a past (unfulfilled) ambition, then 'I would like to have been...'.

    In my first sentence I said 'almost certainly'; that's because there's a very unlikely case where the doubling of the perfect would make sense*. If the wish, in the past, refers to an even earlier unfulfilled ambition, you would use both. This is pretty unlikely, and I have a lesson to prepare so don't have the time to work out an example!

    I'll post timelines for these two forms later.

    b
    *Of course, making sense and spoken language don't always go hand-in-hand; and when users make this 'mistake' there's little risk of their being misunderstood. So there will presumably come a time when it will no longer be seen as a mistake. (That time may even have come, for some users, for whose benefit I used quotation marks - ). But it's certainly not wrong to use one of the shorter (one perfect) versions.


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    #4

    Re: 'Would' to suggest a longing

    Many thanks BobK. That's a very helpful post.

    I have tried to give examples based on your explanation. Please let me know if I have made any errors (particularly in my last attempt).


    Past wish.

    (would + present perfect + full infinitive)

    I would have liked to be a ballet dancer, but my mother couldn't afford the lessons.

    Present wish about a past desire.

    (would + like + perfect infinitive)

    I would like to have been a ballet dancer. Unfortunately I am too old now.

    Past wish about an even earlier desire.

    (would + present perfect + perfect infinitive)

    I've always loved ballet, but unfortunately my mother insisted that I play the violin. Once my violin lessons came to an end, I realised that I would have prefered to have taken ballet lessons.

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    #5

    Re: 'Would' to suggest a longing

    Quote Originally Posted by colloquium View Post
    Past wish about an even earlier desire.

    (would + present perfect + perfect infinitive)

    I've always loved ballet, but unfortunately my mother insisted that I play the violin. Once my violin lessons came to an end, I realised that I would have prefered to have taken ballet lessons.
    I don't think this is hypercorrection in this case, even though it uses a cognate of the "I would have liked to have been..." construction.
    "Looking back at my wedding day, I felt even then that I would have liked to have been better husband material".

  3. BobK's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: 'Would' to suggest a longing

    Quote Originally Posted by colloquium View Post
    Many thanks BobK. That's a very helpful post.

    I have tried to give examples based on your explanation. Please let me know if I have made any errors (particularly in my last attempt).


    Past wish.

    (would + present perfect + full infinitive)

    I would have liked to be a ballet dancer, but my mother couldn't afford the lessons.

    Present wish about a past desire.

    (would + like + perfect infinitive)

    I would like to have been a ballet dancer. Unfortunately I am too old now.

    Past wish about an even earlier desire.

    (would + present perfect + perfect infinitive)

    I've always loved ballet, but unfortunately my mother insisted that I play the violin. Once my violin lessons came to an end, I realised that I would have prefered to have taken ballet lessons.
    They are good examples; the use of two ('nested') perfects is OK in cases like this.

    I've done timelines as promised, but I'm not sure whether the third one makes sense!

    b
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails wouldHaveLiked.jpg  

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    #7

    Re: 'Would' to suggest a longing

    Afterthought: when I first saw the title of this thread I thought you were going to ask about a not very common usage (rather archaic, but preserved in some expressions - like 'would that it were [so]'). This is reminiscent of the Greek optative - in fact it wouldn't surprise me if I were told (note: I'm not telling anyone, myself) that this usage had been invented by early prescriptive grammarians to match the classical languages.

    This is the Greek bit in Rupert Brooke's Grantchester:

    έιθε γενοιμην - would I were
    In Grantchester, In Grantchester
    (Yes, he really wrote that. )

    b

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