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unless with subjunctive Options
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2018 4:08:24 AM

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Is UNLESS possible with subjunctive?

You won't learn English unless it's important for you.

You won't learn English unless it should be important for you. (subjunctive)

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, December 28, 2018 8:40:18 PM

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It's possible - but that particular sentence doesn't work it needs a modal in the first part.

You wouldn't learn English unless it were important for you. (subjunctive)
One wouldn't ask this unless one were rather advanced in one's study of English.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 8:46:58 AM

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Dragon thank you very much!
I have come across a shocking piece of info regarding subjunctive being used with unless.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/youmeus/learnit/learnitv272.shtml

BBC says:

And we cannot use unless with wouldto talk about unreal future situations:

He would be much easier to work with unless he took everything so seriously. (WRONG)
SHOULD BE
If he didn't take everything so seriously, he would be much easier to work with.

We cannot use unless with would have to talk about unreal situations in the past either:

You wouldn't have had this accident, unless you had driven so recklessly. (WRONG)
SHOULD BE
If you hadn't driven so recklessly, you wouldn't have had this accident.

Do you agree with them?
maltliquor87
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 11:48:27 AM

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The short BBC article does not even mention the subjunctive and instead deals with something akin to conditional sentences.

I think one can construct valid sentences that run counter to the article's exhortation that "we cannot use unless with would to talk about unreal future situations".

Consider these sentences. The example in italics is one of those already mentioned and provided for contrast.

1) He would be much easier to work with unless he took everything so seriously. (WRONG)
2) He would never apply for that kind of job unless he were in urgent need of any way to earn money.

Also consider these sentences with regard to the statement that "we cannot use unless with would have to talk about unreal situations in the past either"

3) You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven so recklessly. (WRONG)
4) You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.

It would be interesting to know whether the second and the fourth sentences sound ok.
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 11:56:05 AM

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Conditional sentences are conditional because they are in a subjunctive mood. If they are not in that mood, what mood are they in?

I would also like to know other opinions...
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 2:43:55 PM

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Ivan Fadeev wrote:
Conditional sentences are conditional because they are in a subjunctive mood.

Some 'grammars' concentrate on the forms of individual words, some look at how words are used - their function. Form and function are not always described the same, but use the same words.

"The subjunctive mood" is often considered to be an inflection of the verb (usually appearing like a 'back-shifted' tense, or an infinitive), not the use of the clause.
Sometimes, it is used (as you seem to be doing, and as I feel is more intuitive) to mean the way the whole verb-phrase and clause are used.

If one uses the 'only an inflection' meaning, then the verbs "look" and "will" in "If you look over there, you'll see the sunrise" are not inflected as subjunctive verbs.
If one looks at how the sentence is used, both clauses are hypothetical and so the verbs are 'in a form used for hypothetical statements' - one of the uses of the subjunctive.
I would say that "will" is a modal verb which is not inflected subjunctively, but "will see" is a subjunctive verb-phrase.

One type of conditional sentence (there are apparently almost fifty different types of conditional sentence - some so rare as to be virtually non-existent - I can list off twenty which are used in normal conversation) is like this one:
If I were a carpenter, I would work with wood.
In this sentence, both clauses are hypothetical.
The definition of "Subjunctive" is this:
(Grammar) grammar denoting a mood of verbs used when the content of the clause is being doubted, supposed, feared true, etc, rather than being asserted. The rules for its use and the range of meanings it may possess vary considerably from language to language. In the following sentence, 'were' is in the subjunctive: I'd think very seriously about that if I were you.
Collins English Dictionary
of or designating a grammatical mood typically used for subjective, doubtful, hypothetical, or grammatically subordinate statements or questions, as the mood of be in if this be treason.
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary

By those definitions, "were" and "would work" are subjunctive forms.

The BBC are talking about conditionals in general, not subjunctive verbs - they don't mention subjunctives.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 2:57:21 PM

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Dragon thank you!
However, I disagree.

conditionals EXIST within subjunctive, at least those discussed.

If he didn't take everything so seriously, he would be much easier to work with. (Subjunctive)

That is subjunctive because as you said -

The definition of "Subjunctive" is this:
(Grammar) grammar denoting a mood of verbs used when the content of the clause is being doubted, supposed, feared true, etc, rather than being asserted.

That sentence doesn't denote assertion it denotes hypothesis. We also see back-shifting here.

However, this matter is not really worthy of being discussed. We have veered off the topic.

Could you comment on the sentences submitted by maltliquor87

2) He would never apply for that kind of job unless he were in urgent need of any way to earn money.


4) You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.


Are the correct in your opinion?
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 3:48:53 PM

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I added a sentence, probably after you read it (about the grammars of form and function) - but it would not affect your answer, I don't think.

The two sentences are correct.

2) He would never apply for that kind of job unless he were in urgent need of any way to earn money.
This is a 'timeless' conditional (it could be used to talk about someone who DID apply for the job yesterday - or about someone who MIGHT apply tomorrow). I would normally use "a" or "some" rather than "any", but that doesn't affect the sentence at all.
Considering the form of the verbs: "would" is a modal auxiliary verb, it is not inflected as a subjunctive. "Were" is backshifted, inflected as subjunctive.
Considering the function of the clauses: "would apply" and "If he were" are hypothetical, and so are subjunctive phrases.

4) You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.
This could be called a perfect conditional (it talks about a real past event - he had the accident) and a hypothetical condition (he probably was drunk).
Considering the form of the verbs: "would" is a modal auxiliary verb, it is not inflected as a subjunctive, it is a past tense. "had" is an auxiliary verb in the past tense - not inflected as a subjunctive.
Considering the function of the clauses: "would have had" and "If he had been" are hypothetical, and so are subjunctive phrases.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 4:07:54 PM

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I see. I don't understand BBC's point then...
maltliquor87
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 4:20:58 PM

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Thanks, Drago!

I constructed those two sentences myself. Regarding the fourth sentence, I had a slightly different context in mind, which is the following.

Two people had a car accident. One of them was a driver who had just gotten his driving license. The other was an experienced driver. The less skillful driver was at the wheel, while the more skillful one, Brett, was just a passenger. After getting the news about the accident, their friend starts to criticize the person who drove that day for not having let Brett drive. So considering Brett to be a very good driver, he says

Quote:
You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.



I think I see what context Drago has in mind. In that context, Brett actually was at the wheel and he did have an accident. Based on that fact and knowing him to be a good driver, we make an inference that he probably was drunk.

In the latter context the part " You should have let Brett drive" seems out of place.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2018 4:53:16 PM

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maltliquor87 wrote:
In the latter context the part "You should have let Brett drive" seems out of place.

Ah - that's true, I didn't look at the next sentence.
Ivan Fadeev wrote:
I see. I don't understand BBC's point then...

They are simply saying that "we cannot use unless in questions . . . And we cannot use unless with would to talk about unreal future situations . . . We cannot use unless with 'would have' to talk about unreal situations in the past either".

The two sentences I gave, using 'unless' and the subjunctive, are not questions and they are not unreal future or past situations.

You wouldn't learn English unless it were important for you.
One wouldn't ask this unless one were rather advanced in one's study of English.


They are real present situations:
You are asking this, but - one wouldn't ask this unless one were rather advanced in one's study of English.
You are learning English, but - you wouldn't learn English unless it were important for you.

For unreal situations, one uses 'if' and the negative.
He takes everything seriously.
He would be much easier to work with unless he took everything so seriously.
He would be much easier to work with if he didn't take everything so seriously.
You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven so recklessly.
You wouldn't have had this accident if you hadn't driven so recklessly.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Monday, December 31, 2018 1:27:59 AM

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Wait a minute) How come this is OK then?

A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.

It's talking about the past...

YOU SAID:
We cannot use unless with 'would have' to talk about unreal situations in the past either".
_____________________________

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Monday, December 31, 2018 2:31:25 PM

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It's a real situation - he did have this accident.

We cannot use 'unless' with 'would have' to talk about unreal situations in the past.

***************
There is another pattern - or is it a rule? It seems to affect the adverb 'so'.

You wouldn't have had this accident if you hadn't driven recklessly.
You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven recklessly.
You wouldn't have had this accident if you hadn't driven so recklessly.

You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven so recklessly.

A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.
A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident if he hadn't been drunk out of his gourd.
A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident if he hadn't been so drunk.

A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been so drunk.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Monday, December 31, 2018 2:37:36 PM

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It's an unsolvable mystery.


It's a real situation - he did have this accident.
OK. He got in that accident. But another driver wouldn't have had such an accident UNLESS he he had been drunk out of his gourd. It is unreal.

It's very difficult to grasp, if possible.


Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 7:39:39 AM

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Ah! That's the thing.

"He wouldn't have had . . . unless he had been" is a form used for a REAL situation. Those two tense/mode/aspect groups HE had something and HE (same person) was not something.

If I want an unreal situation in which one person had something, but a DIFFERENT person would not (conditionally) have, it needs a different conditional form.

John had an accident. A good driver like Bill wouldn't have had an accident unless he were drunk.
Again, this does not have 'unless' followed by 'would' - it's 'unless' followed by a subjunctive verb.

"Unless he had been" says he had the accident.
"Unless he were" says he didn't.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
maltliquor87
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 8:14:35 AM

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Drago, it was a very good observation regarding "so".

But I want to return to the context I had in mind.
Quote:

Two people had a car accident. One of them was a driver who had just gotten his driving license. The other was an experienced driver. The less skillful driver was at the wheel, while the more skillful one, Brett, was just a passenger. After getting the news about the accident, their friend starts to criticize the person who drove that day for not having let Brett drive. So considering Brett to be a very good driver, he says:
'You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.'


So if I understood you correctly, in that particular context we should replace "unless he had been drunk" with "unless he were drunk". Is it correct?
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 8:52:29 AM

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That's how I read it, and why it 'feels wrong' - why I can't see it meaning what you want it to mean.

"You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he were drunk out of his gourd."
Brett didn't drive, and didn't have an accident.
If he had been driving, and had been drunk, he may have had the accident.

"You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd." Whoa! Now that says that 'he' and 'him' are someone other than Brett.
Brett was not driving - that's what the first sentence says.
"He" (whoever this mysterious 'he' is) IS a good driver and WAS driving, and had an accident (therefore it couldn't have been Brett) - that's what the first clause of the second sentence says. Also he was drunk - that's what the second clause of the sentence infers.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
maltliquor87
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 8:59:00 AM

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I see now. Thanks.

Quote:
"You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he were drunk out of his gourd."
Brett didn't drive, and didn't have an accident.
If he had been driving, and had been drunk, he may have had the accident.


I think that keeping in mind this particular context one could also say "You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have an accident like that unless he were drunk out of his gourd."
Audiendus
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 9:17:14 AM
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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
It's a real situation - he did have this accident.

We cannot use 'unless' with 'would have' to talk about unreal situations in the past.

***************
There is another pattern - or is it a rule? It seems to affect the adverb 'so'.

You wouldn't have had this accident if you hadn't driven recklessly.
You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven recklessly.
You wouldn't have had this accident if you hadn't driven so recklessly.

You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven so recklessly.

A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.
A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident if he hadn't been drunk out of his gourd.
A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident if he hadn't been so drunk.

A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been so drunk.

The sentences I have marked in blue sound a little odd to me. "Unless you had driven recklessly" seems to suggest, wrongly, that the person did not drive recklessly. Similarly with the other blue sentence. I would always use "if...not" in these situations, rather than "unless".

When we say "A unless B", we mean "A is real or likely, except in the event that B". If B refers to the present or future, it is possible but unlikely. If B refers to the past, it is impossible (unreal). For example:

This is her book, unless I am mistaken. (Probably, this is her book and I am not mistaken.)
We will eat outdoors unless it rains. (Probably, we will eat outdoors and it will not rain.)
She will be here soon, unless she has been delayed. (Probably, she will be here soon and has not been delayed.)
You wouldn't have had this accident if the weather had been fine, unless you had driven recklessly. (You did have this accident, because the weather was not fine. It is not the case that you drove recklessly in fine weather.)

The past perfect subjunctive in the "third conditional" construction signifies something unreal:

"if I had done..." (but I did not)
"had I done..." (but I did not)
"unless I had done..." (but I did not)
"unless I had done..." (which I did)

"if you hadn't driven recklessly" (but you did)
"unless you had driven recklessly" (which you did)


Do you see the problem?
Audiendus
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 9:33:16 AM
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Further to my previous post:

Drag0nspeaker wrote:
"You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he were drunk out of his gourd."
Brett didn't drive, and didn't have an accident.
If he had been driving, and had been drunk, he may [might?] have had the accident.

Ah yes! I agree with "unless" there (except that I would say "unless he had been" rather than "unless he were").

Drag0nspeaker wrote:
"He" (whoever this mysterious 'he' is) IS a good driver

He is a bad driver, I think. He had the accident even though he was (presumably) not drunk.
maltliquor87
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 9:37:38 AM

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I see inferences behind the sentences in blue.


Quote:
You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven recklessly.


Being a good driver, you nevertheless had an accident. Therefore, I can infer that you were driving recklessly.

It is not meant to convey the same thing as the sentence with "if" in green.

Quote:
You wouldn't have had this accident if you hadn't driven recklessly.

Here, the speaker knows from the start that the person to whom he's talking was driving recklessly.
maltliquor87
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 10:02:48 AM

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Audiendus,
Audiendus wrote:
Further to my previous post:

Drag0nspeaker wrote:
"You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he were drunk out of his gourd."
Brett didn't drive, and didn't have an accident.
If he had been driving, and had been drunk, he may [might?] have had the accident.

Ah yes! I agree with "unless" there (except that I would say "unless he had been" rather than "unless he were").

Drag0nspeaker wrote:
"He" (whoever this mysterious 'he' is) IS a good driver

He is a bad driver, I think. He had the accident even though he was (presumably) not drunk.


_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It seems you're reading the context behind the part in bold exactly as I intially intended, which is

Quote:
Two people had a car accident. One of them was a driver who had just gotten his driving license. The other was an experienced driver. The less skillful driver was at the wheel, while the more skillful one, Brett, was just a passenger. After getting the news about the accident, their friend starts to criticize the person who drove that day for not having let Brett drive. So considering Brett to be a very good driver, he says:
'You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.'


However, Drago sees the part in bold differently. In that context the part "You should have let Brett drive." is redundant. What is left is simply "A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd". It can be regarded as conveying an inference. "He" (whoever he is) is a good driver who had an accident. Therefore one can infer that he was drunk that night.

That is how I see the source of this slight disagreement between you and Drago.
Audiendus
Posted: Thursday, January 3, 2019 8:48:00 PM
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OK. Thanks for the clarification.
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 12:44:52 AM

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The sentences are too complicated to illustrate the point. I am sorry to have submitted them. We are talking a lot about who was who which is not really to the point. After reading Audiendus's comments, I feel more confused. Let's take a step back.


So, BBC says: We cannot use "unless" with "would have" to talk about unreal situations in the past:

OK. But we haven't used UNLESS with WOULD HAVE in the same clause, in the first place. They give this:

If you hadn't driven so recklessly, you wouldn't have had this accident.

But what sentence do they advise against? What sentence can be wrong? This one?

1) If you hadn't driven so recklessly, unless you wouldn't have had this accident. ???? (I agree, it's wrong)


Maybe they mean We cannot use "unless" with "would have" to talk about unreal situations in the past (EVEN WHEN UNLESS and WOULD HAVE are in two different clauses:

Like in this one:

2) UNLESS you had driven so recklessly, you wouldn't have had this accident.

But is 2 really wrong?

(I got tangled with all those "he's" to tell you the truth, guys.)

PS: Could you elaborate your understanding of BBC's statement? Do they mean not to use UNLESS with WOULD HAVE in the same sentence or clause? Plus, they don't show the wrong sentences which makes it impossible to make out completely what they mean.









Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 4:14:12 AM

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OK - good idea - back to the BBC . . .

"Unless is similar in meaning to if not and can be used instead of if not in certain types of conditional sentences. We normally use unless with present tenses when we are referring to the future:

You won't get in to see the show, if you don't have reserved seats. OR:
Unless you have reserved seats, you won't get in to see the show.

Let's play tennis on Saturday, if it's not raining. OR:
Let's play tennis on Saturday, unless it's raining.

I'll see you at the gym this evening, if you're not too tired. OR:
I'll see you at the gym this evening, unless you're too tired.


. . .
We cannot use unless with would have to talk about unreal situations in the past either:

If you hadn't driven so recklessly, you wouldn't have had this accident.
If you hadn't had that last glass of wine, this would never have happened.
"


OK - you CAN use 'if not' with would in past unreal situations, as above.
"Unless is similar in meaning to if not".
"We cannot use unless with would have to talk about unreal situations in the past."

If you hadn't driven so recklessly, you wouldn't have had this accident.
Unless you'd driven so recklessly, you wouldn't have had this accident.

I agree - that sounds wrong.

If you hadn't had that last glass of wine, this would never have happened.
Unless you'd had that last glass of wine, this would never have happened.

Yes - definitely 'odd'.

**************
They are just saying that you can replace "if not" with "unless" sometimes.
However, in this case, it doesn't work.

It's a rule - there's no reason.
That's one of the troubles with rules - they just ARE.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 5:27:24 AM

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Why is it that this one is BAD:
You wouldn't have had this accident, unless you'd driven so recklessly.

but this one is OK:
A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.

Could this observation be valid:

Is it because in the first sentence, one clause says about what really happened, the other one says about what could have happened. (You wouldn't have had this accident = You had it)

But here, two clauses say about the things which never happened.

A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.





Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 5:58:08 AM

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But he must have had the accident.
It's THIS accident - you're looking at it. He had it. It's a real situation - and if the accident was real, then the drunkenness was real too.
If he hadn't been drunk, he wouldn't have had the accident.

If it were unreal, the sentence would be different.
A good driver like him wouldn't have an accident like that if he weren't drunk out of his gourd.
A good driver like him wouldn't have an accident like that unless he were drunk out of his gourd.

(Unreal 'timeless' - or 'present tense')

*******************
I think that part of the problem with this "A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless. . ." sentence is that I 'naturally', 'automatically' assume "It can't be unreal, because it's in the past - you can't use 'unless' with 'would' in a past unreal situation."

The FORM of the sentence says "This is real!" to me.
Trying to see how it could be unreal makes my brain creak.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Audiendus
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 8:56:59 AM
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I think this is primarily a question of tense and mood.

The first thing to bear in mind is that the past perfect subjunctive is only used for unreal situations.

Let's remind ourselves of maltliquor87's original example:

maltliquor87 wrote:
Two people had a car accident. One of them was a driver who had just gotten his driving license. The other was an experienced driver. The less skillful driver was at the wheel, while the more skillful one, Brett, was just a passenger. After getting the news about the accident, their friend starts to criticize the person who drove that day for not having let Brett drive. So considering Brett to be a very good driver, he says

Quote:
You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.

Note that the driver who had the accident ("you") and the "good driver" ("him", i.e. Brett) are two different people. So:

1. The actual driver and Brett are being contrasted. Brett would only have had the accident if he had been drunk. That implies that the actual driver had the accident even though he was not drunk (otherwise there would be nothing to choose between them).

2. It is not the case that Brett had been drunk. Therefore, "he had been drunk out of his gourd" is unreal. This is a correct use of the past perfect subjunctive.

3. Let's assume that the actual driver drove recklessly (even though he wasn't drunk). Then, if we say:

"You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven (so) recklessly"

"you had driven (so) recklessly" is real; he did drive recklessly. This is an incorrect use of the past perfect subjunctive.

Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Friday, January 4, 2019 2:37:29 PM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
But he must have had the accident.
It's THIS accident - you're looking at it. He had it. It's a real situation - and if the accident was real, then the drunkenness was real too.
If he hadn't been drunk, he wouldn't have had the accident.


We have three "he's" here. 1) The actual driver 2) Bred 3) their friend saying the sentence.

Who had the accident? - 1) The actual driver
Did Bred have the accident? - No.

The sentence is about Bred. It means that it didn't happen to Bred, hence, the sentence is hypothetical.
It's as hypothetical as "A good driver like him won't have an accident like that unless he is drunk out of his gourd."

So, do you consider this correct or wrong?

A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.


(You had said it was correct. Have you changed your mind?)



Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2019 3:26:39 AM

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Ivan Fadeev wrote:
A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.
(You had said it was correct. Have you changed your mind?)

It is a correct sentence - IF he did have this accident (which he obviously did, because the sentence says so) - THIS accident, the one he just had. He wouldn't have had it unless he'd been drunk.
I have never said that it's correct for an unreal situation (where he didn't have such an accident). I haven't changed my mind.

If Brett had this accident - "A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd."
If someone else had THIS accident - "A good driver like him wouldn't have had an accident unless he were out of his gourd."

Drag0nspeaker wrote:
You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.
This could be called a perfect conditional (it talks about a real past event - he had the accident) and a hypothetical condition (he probably was drunk).
Considering the form of the verbs: "would" is a modal auxiliary verb, it is not inflected as a subjunctive, it is a past tense. "had" is an auxiliary verb in the past tense - not inflected as a subjunctive.
Considering the function of the clauses: "would have had" and "If he had been" are hypothetical, and so are subjunctive phrases.

Drag0nspeaker wrote:
For unreal situations, one uses 'if' and the negative.
He takes everything seriously.
He would be much easier to work with unless he took everything so seriously.
He would be much easier to work with if he didn't take everything so seriously.
You wouldn't have had this accident unless you had driven so recklessly.
You wouldn't have had this accident if you hadn't driven so recklessly.

Dragonspeaker wrote:
If I want an unreal situation in which one person had something, but a DIFFERENT person would not (conditionally) have, it needs a different conditional form.

John had an accident. A good driver like Bill wouldn't have had an accident unless he were drunk.
Again, this does not have 'unless' followed by 'would' - it's 'unless' followed by a subjunctive verb.
"Unless he had been" says he had the accident.
"Unless he were" says he didn't.

Drag0nspeaker wrote:
"You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he were drunk out of his gourd."
Brett didn't drive, and didn't have an accident.
If he had been driving, and had been drunk, he might have had the accident.

It's not just the 'unless' being wrong.
That form of conditional - "He wouldn't have <verb> . . . unless he had been <adjective>" - says:
1. He did <verb>
2. He must have been <adjective> (though this is conjecture - hypothetical with 99% probability)

The similar conditionals I can think of read like this to me:

He wouldn't have seen you unless he'd been awake.
He did see you and he must have been awake.

He wouldn't have seen you if he weren't awake.
He probably saw you and if he did, then he was awake. (But I have a feeling he may not have been awake.)

He wouldn't have seen you unless he were awake.
He maybe saw you, but quite possibly he wasn't awake. If he did see you, he was awake.

He would have seen you if he were awake.
He didn't see you, because he wasn't awake.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Audiendus
Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2019 8:45:39 AM
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I agree with most of what Drag0nspeaker says, but I question the sequence of tenses in the following. In my opinion, the tenses/moods I have marked in red are incorrect. (I have numbered the sentences for convenience.)

Drag0nspeaker wrote:
1. He wouldn't have seen you unless he'd been awake.
He did see you and he must have been awake.

2. He wouldn't have seen you if he weren't awake.
He probably saw you and if he did, then he was awake. (But I have a feeling he may not have been awake.)

3. He wouldn't have seen you unless he were awake.
He maybe saw you, but quite possibly he wasn't awake. If he did see you, he was awake.

4. He would have seen you if he were awake.
He didn't see you, because he wasn't awake.

Note that we can use "would" to refer either to an unreal situation (e.g. he would still be alive if...") or a possible one (e.g. "I would change my mind if..."). We can also use it to refer to a certain but inferred situation (e.g. "Shakespeare would have been influenced by the political events of his time.") So, looking at the numbered examples:

1. Is "he'd been" indicative or subjunctive? I don't think it can be past perfect indicative, because that implies two steps back into the past, whereas here we are talking about only one step back, i.e. the moment when "you" arrived. (Whether he "had been" awake earlier is irrelevant.) So I think "he'd been" must be past perfect subjunctive, which is used after a conditional to denote an unreal situation. But here, "he'd been awake" is real (he must have been awake). But if we say instead: "...if he hadn't been awake", we have (correctly) an unreal situation (i.e. "he hadn't been awake" - but he was). So I would use "if...not" rather than "unless" in sentence 1.

2. Here, it is possible that he was not awake, so the situation is not regarded as unreal. So I would use the past indicative - "if he wasn't awake". If in fact he wasn't awake, then (I infer that) he didn't see you.

3. Similar to (2). I would say "...unless he was awake".

4. Unreal situation, therefore subjunctive after "if". But the sequence of tenses (third conditional construction) requires the past perfect subjunctive. So I would say: ""..if he had been awake".
maltliquor87
Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2019 10:58:39 AM

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Audiendus wrote:
I think this is primarily a question of tense and mood.

Let's remind ourselves of maltliquor87's original example:

maltliquor87 wrote:
Two people had a car accident. One of them was a driver who had just gotten his driving license. The other was an experienced driver. The less skillful driver was at the wheel, while the more skillful one, Brett, was just a passenger. After getting the news about the accident, their friend starts to criticize the person who drove that day for not having let Brett drive. So considering Brett to be a very good driver, he says

Quote:
You should have let Brett drive. A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.

Note that the driver who had the accident ("you") and the "good driver" ("him", i.e. Brett) are two different people. So:

1. The actual driver and Brett are being contrasted. Brett would only have had the accident if he had been drunk. That implies that the actual driver had the accident even though he was not drunk (otherwise there would be nothing to choose between them).

2. It is not the case that Brett had been drunk. Therefore, "he had been drunk out of his gourd" is unreal. This is a correct use of the past perfect subjunctive.



Drago sees a completely different situation behind the sentence "A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd." The context in which his interepretation of the sentence makes sense to him does not match the context outlined above.

Drago, feel free to set me straight If I'm misrepresenting your view. I'm just trying to bring to the fore another point of out minor disagreement.

What is also important is that Audiendus seems to find the use of that sentence unobjectionable in that precise context which I described. Is it correct, Audiendus?

I think that the sentence should be rewritten in the following way to make it less open to different interpretations.

Quote:
A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd -----> A good driver like him would not have an accident like that unless he were drunk out of his gourd


The new sentence conveys a more general sense that also applies to the context presented.
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2019 2:27:20 PM

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Joined: 2/21/2015
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Neurons: 6,071
Dragon!
Reading through the answers I realize that I don't understand how you characterize the idea of "unreal condition".

You say that this one is OK because it's "real" and it's REAL because he had an accident. Right?

A good driver like him wouldn't have had this accident unless he had been drunk out of his gourd.

Can you transform the sentence so that it is UNREAL (for an illustrative purpose)?
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2019 2:38:17 PM

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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
I would say:
A good driver like him wouldn't have an accident like that unless he were drunk out of his gourd.
I thjink some would use 'was' instead of 'were'.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Ivan Fadeev
Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2019 2:49:50 PM

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Joined: 2/21/2015
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I meant in the third conditional.
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