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hypothetical in the past Options
lazarius
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 12:24:19 AM

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I am currently having trouble trying to express a thought. I need to say that there were days when everything was very different to what I see today. Now I bring forth an example - a hypothetical example. It is not that it happened every day or ever has happened but if...

In those days you could leave your purse in the street and it wouldn't walk away.
In those days you could leave your purse in the street and it wouldn't have walked away.
In those days you could have left your purse in the street and it wouldn't have walked away.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 3:54:21 AM

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Hi lazarius!

I would (personally) say "disappear" instead of "walk away" - but "walk away" is completely understandable and is an idiom - at least, it is in Britain.

The second one does not sound quite right to me - the forms of the verbs in the two clauses don't quite 'fit together' for me. I think it may well be "correct" and be one of the 'recognised conditional forms', but it doesn't sound right.

The simple modal past "could leave" and "would not walk" balance well.

The two modal perfects "could have left" and "would not have walked" also balance well.

The difference between the two sentences is that the simple past 'sounds like' the situation happened occasionally - people did sometimes leave their purses in the street.

The perfect one 'sounds like' it never really happened, but it would have been possible.

************
One hypothetical example I have heard (for the same situation) is:

"A young girl carrying a bag of gold could safely walk through the town at night."


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
BobShilling
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 4:12:25 AM
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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
The second one does not sound quite right to me - the forms of the verbs in the two clauses don't quite 'fit together' for me. I think it may well be "correct" and be one of the 'recognised conditional forms', but it doesn't sound right.


In those days you could leave your purse in the street and it wouldn't have walked away.

I agree. It doesn't quite fit together for me, either. I think it's probably possible, with an understood condition: In those days you could leave your purse in the street and (if you had left it,) it wouldn't have walked away. However, like Drag0, I think the first and third versions are more natural.
lazarius
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 4:44:42 AM

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Location: Kotel’niki, Moskovskaya, Russia
Drag0nspeaker wrote:
One hypothetical example I have heard (for the same situation) is:

"A young girl carrying a bag of gold could safely walk through the town at night."

Do I understand it correctly that in those days it was a regular thing to see a young girl carrying a bag of gold through Livingston at night?

Do I understand it correctly that out of these only the second is correct:

Jesus Christ himself could descend from heaven and still nobody would believe in Him.
Jesus Christ himself could have descended from heaven and still nobody would have believed in Him.
BobShilling
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 4:48:36 AM
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lazarius wrote:


Do I understand it correctly that out of these only the second is correct:

Jesus Christ himself could descend from heaven and still nobody would believe in Him.
Jesus Christ himself could have descended from heaven and still nobody would have believed in Him.


Both are possible. The first refers to a present or future hypothetical situation, the second to a past counterfactual situation.
lazarius
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 5:03:12 AM

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Location: Kotel’niki, Moskovskaya, Russia
BobShilling wrote:
Both are possible. The first refers to a present or future hypothetical situation, the second to a past counterfactual situation.

I meant talking about the past.

I can explain what I tried to convey with the "mixed" example in the first post.

Comparing the past to the present I meant you can leave your purse in the street today - nobody will forbid you. This I thought was a perfect reason for choosing the simple tense. As of the second part - the result will certainly be different and that was the reason for choosing the perfect. Actually this is what I have filed for my homework. So I expect it will be 'F'. :)
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 8:42:51 AM

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lazarius wrote:
Comparing the past to the present I meant you can leave your purse in the street today - nobody will forbid you. This I thought was a perfect reason for choosing the simple tense. As of the second part - the result will certainly be different and that was the reason for choosing the perfect. Actually this is what I have filed for my homework. So I expect it will be 'F'. :)

Don't be too sure - as I said "it may well be one of the recognised conditional forms" - and so would be perfectly correct. It just doesn't fit the way I speak.

If it were worded as a 'totally standard' conditional (with an 'if clause' and a 'conditional clause'), the mixed hypothetical tenses would sound a bit better (but is still not natural to me, andcould still be improved).

In those days, if you left your purse in the street, it wouldn't have walked away.
In those days, if you left your purse in the street, it wouldn't walk away.
In those days, were you to leave your purse in the street, it wouldn't walk away.
In those days, if you'd left your purse in the street, it wouldn't have walked away.


These all mean that it was possible that someone might have left a purse in the street (the green ones are in order of decreasing probability).
The second clause means that it is definitely not possible that it would have walked away. Unreal or 'irreal' conditional.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Audiendus
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 9:36:48 AM
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This is how I see it:

In those days, if you left your purse in the street, it wouldn't have walked away.
I too would query this. If it is meant to be counterfactual, the first clause should read "if you had left". If, however, it is meant to show a general factual state of affairs in the past (i.e. people sometimes did leave their purse in the street), the second clause should read "it wouldn't walk away" ("wouldn't have walked" sounds as if it means "wouldn't have already walked"!)

In those days, if you left your purse in the street, it wouldn't walk away.
Correct. This refers to a factual state of affairs - it was the case that if you left your purse... (Backshifted from "If you leave your purse in the street, it won't walk away.)

In those days, were you to leave your purse in the street, it wouldn't walk away.
Ditto (except that here the present-time version would read the same).

In those days, if you'd left your purse in the street, it wouldn't have walked away.
Correct. This can be construed either as a counterfactual condition, or as a possible condition (backshifted from "If you have left your purse in the street, it won't have walked away").
lazarius
Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2018 1:04:05 PM

Rank: Newbie

Joined: 8/27/2016
Posts: 27
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Location: Kotel’niki, Moskovskaya, Russia
Thanks to all of you who replied.
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