Tense and Aspect: 3. The Marked Tense, Part 2

5jj

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Member Type
Retired English Teacher
Native Language
British English
Home Country
Czech Republic
Current Location
Czech Republic
Tense and Asect: 3. The Marked Tense - Part Two
Continued from here: ​https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/threads/287494-Tense-and-Aspect-3-The-Marked-Tense-Part-1

3.2.2. Distancing in Reality


Consider these two utterances:


  1. Well, he has been in his new job a month now. I hope he likes it.
  2. Well, he has been in his new job a month now. I wish he liked it.

In both, the underlined verb refers to the present or general (i.e., not specifically future or past) time. In [11] the hope and in [12], the wish are presented as facts. However, in [11] the liking is presented as a real possibility; in [12] the liking is presented as unreal; the speaker regrets that this is not the situation. The unmarked form shows a distancing in perception of realityhttps://d.docs.live.net/9046edaeb9e7aadb/Documents/UE marked tense.docx#_edn1.

The idea of distancing in reality explains the use of tenses in the so-called first and second conditions:


  1. George wants to see me tomorrow. If he offers me a rise, I'll stay.
  2. George wants to see me tomorrow. If he offered me a rise I'd stay.

In both utterances the time of the situation referred to is clearly future: tomorrow. In [13], the speaker has chosen not to distance the tenses. The use of the unmarked form presents the situation as a real possibility. In [14], the speaker's use of the marked form distances the situation from reality: the prospect of the offer and the staying is less real.

When the context shows that the time of the situation is not future but present or general, then the reality of the situation is complete: we have hypothetical (counterfactual) reality [= unreality, irrealis], as in


  1. I'd be in Africa now if the children weren't so settled here.

The speaker is not in Africa, and the children are settled here. The use of the distancing marked form makes this clear. Any attempt to describe this as a special use of a so-called past tense is confusing; it has nothing to do with the past.

Because the unmarked tense does not imply distancing in reality, an utterance such as:


  1. ? If I live in the country, I feel cut off

is virtually impossible if the speaker is referring to present time, because the implication of the if is that the speaker does not live in the country. However, such an utterance is possible if the speaker makes it clear that s/he is speaking of possible situations:

16a. I can't seem to find the right place to live. If I live in the country, I feel cut off, but if I live in the city, I feel stifled.

Real and unreal possibilities are examined more closely in later threads. Here I simply note that there is rarely any doubt about the time; if the context does not make it clear, then the speaker will make the time explicit. In an utterance such as


  1. If they were here, we could sort out any difficulties,

the time may be clear to speaker and listener. If it is not, the speaker will add a time marker such as now, tomorrow, next Tuesday, etc.


https://d.docs.live.net/9046edaeb9e7aadb/Documents/UE marked tense.docx#_ednref1 Kruisinga ([1911] 1931.27) refers to the marked form distancing in reality as the preterite […], as an irrealis.

Kruisinga uses the word ‘preterite’ of the form that includes two entirely unrelated functions of the verbal [ɪd]: (1) as a past tense; (2) as a modal form (p.22).

He appears to be one of the first writers to use the words ‘remote/remoteness’ of this tense: The narrative past tense is used to express hesitation by making the idea expressed more remote. Thus we say, I thought he was to lecture next week, when something has occurred to make us doubt the correctness of the expression,
The past tense is similarly used if a writer wishes to dissociate himself from stating a fact.

[...] The past tense of remoteness leads by imperceptible stages to the case when the idea of past time is completely absent. When we say: I called to ask you, if you would join us, the preterite would seem to be more polite or modest [...].

Zandvoort ([1962] 1972,61) labels the preterite used for desirable, things, or conditions not likely to be fulifilled or contrary to reality the MODAL PRETERITE,

Joos, Martin (1964.121): the other kind [of remoteness is] unreality.

Chalker (1984.98) presents this non-present or ‘remote-from-the-present’ use of the tense as unreality or hypothesis.

For Quirk et al (1985.188) this use implies the non-occurrence of some state or event in the present or future but they refer to it as the hypothetical past, a term used again in Greenbaum (1996.257)

Huddleston (2002, 188) uses the term modal preterit e for clauses referring to irrealis situations in present or future time. Aarts (2011.58) prefers modal past tense.


Continued here:https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/threads/287496-Tense-and-Aspect-3-The-Marked-Tense-Part-3
 
Last edited:
Top