[Grammar] What are the times of the main and subordinate clauses?

Status
Not open for further replies.

ppbird

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
I am confused by the tense simplification in subordinate clauses and modal verbs which can be used to talk about the present or future.

Let's look at this sentence first:-
"Any person who wounds a person must be sentenced to permanent imprisonment."

"Must" in the main clause can be used to talk about the present or future.

So if "must" in the main clause talks about the future, and I apply the time simplification rule to the subordinate clause, the time of the subordinate clause should be future: "Any person who [will] wound a person must be sentenced to permanent imprisonment".

But if "must" in the main clause talks about the present, the time of the subordinate clause should be present, telling in general who "any person" is.

How can I interprete the times of the main and suboridnate clauses :?:


Another question is that if "must" in the main clause talks about the present, can I say that the main clause does not only refer to the present, but also refers to all the time (i.e. it is a thing in general or a permanent situation) :?:


Thank for your help in advance :-D
 

casablanca_30391

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2009
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
Vietnamese
Home Country
Vietnam
Current Location
Vietnam
Well my dear,
Actually, I don't think that u have to clarify the time in your sentence. Well, the using of " must" in your sentence is true, I have no doubt. I've already read a grammar book writing about this matter. This is similar to conditional sentence
E.g: If I study hard, I can achieve success
Therefore, u can apply present tense in both clauses.
I hope my knowledge may support u! :)
 
Last edited:

Raymott

VIP Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2008
Member Type
Academic
Native Language
English
Home Country
Australia
Current Location
Australia
I am confused by the tense simplification in subordinate clauses and modal verbs which can be used to talk about the present or future.

Let's look at this sentence first:-
"Any person who wounds a person must be sentenced to permanent imprisonment."

"Must" in the main clause can be used to talk about the present or future.

So if "must" in the main clause talks about the future, and I apply the time simplification rule to the subordinate clause, the time of the subordinate clause should be future: "Any person who [will] wound a person must be sentenced to permanent imprisonment".

No. As you know, the present tense can also be used with a future meaning. In this case, both clauses can be read with a present or future meaning.


But if "must" in the main clause talks about the present, the time of the subordinate clause should be present,
Why?
"Any person who wounded another person in last weeks fight must be sentenced to permanent imprisonment."
Do you find a problem with this use of the simple past in the subordinate clause?


telling in general who "any person" is.

How can I interprete the times of the main and suboridnate clauses :?:
The tenses are chosen for the intended meaning. They don't have to be the same.


Another question is that if "must" in the main clause talks about the present, can I say that the main clause does not only refer to the present, but also refers to all the time (i.e. it is a thing in general or a permanent situation) :?:
Yes. If it's a law that wounding another person attracts a penalty of permanent imprisonment, you are stating a [semi-]permanent truth. Note that this is the passive voice of the simple present tense. Another example:
"Even rich people must eventually be parted from their money."

Thank for your help in advance :-D
What is this "tense simplification rule"? I haven't heard of it.
 

ppbird

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Dear Casablanca,

Thanks for your reply :-D

Why I am thinking of the times is that the time of a sentence can be different from the tense of it.

For example, He starts to work tomorrow (The tense is the present simple, but the time is future).

In addition, there is a tense simplification rule that if the main clause refers to the future, the subordinate clause is in the present simple.

For example, "If you come tomorrow, you can see my mother". It is of the Future Real Conditional or First Conditional :roll:

The clauses in your example ("If I study hard, I can achieve success"), which are in the present simple and do not contain any time adverb, seem to refer to all the time. Can I say it is of the Present Real Conditional or Zero Conditional :?:

But if so, this may not make sense as there is a modal verb "can", which contradicts the definition of "Present Real Conditional".

Let's discuss and share :-D
 

ppbird

Member
Joined
Jun 2, 2010
Member Type
Student or Learner
Dear Raymott, thanks for the analysis in detail ;-)

Regarding the tense simplification rule which I mentioned in this post, I learned it from Practical English Usage - 2nd Edition by Michael Swan.

Here is the rule from it "Present tenses are often used instead of will + infinitive to refer to the future in subordinate clauses" (Michael Swan, Practical English Usage, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 1995, Page 578)
 

casablanca_30391

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2009
Member Type
English Teacher
Native Language
Vietnamese
Home Country
Vietnam
Current Location
Vietnam
Dear Raymott, thanks for the analysis in detail ;-)

Regarding the tense simplification rule which I mentioned in this post, I learned it from Practical English Usage - 2nd Edition by Michael Swan.

Here is the rule from it "Present tenses are often used instead of will + infinitive to refer to the future in subordinate clauses" (Michael Swan, Practical English Usage, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 1995, Page 578)
Yes!
I have already read this useful book and I agree with u that there is the tense simplification rule. In my opinion, using simple tense in the subordinate clause is right, why are u still wondering?
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top