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Thread: future in the past - una pozione che l'avrebbe fatta dormire

  1. #21
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    Re: future in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by uinni
    It's amazing how this (English) future in the past is disliked by anglosaxon foreros.

    Not disliked - there is simply not a clearly defined tense for it in English apart from the construction using "would". By the way I understood l'avrebbe fatta dormire as being in the perfect conditional tense - in other words it should legalistically be translated would have put her to sleep.

    I believe the historical evolution of English "will" causes some confusion. Both "would" and "could" have conditional and non-conditional meanings. In describing a past event they both take on non conditional meanings unless you say could have or would have, in which case they remain conditional. that would put her to sleep is therefore non-conditional and is the future in the past, as required in this case. Shakespeare would have gone to Hawaii is conditional perfect, expressing his unfulfilled desire. So I am wondering why l'avrebbe fatta dormire was used in this Italian text of Romeo and Juliet??

    ******************
    - Giuseppe informed me that the airplane to/for Paris would leave an hour later = Giuseppe mi comunicò che l'aereo da Parigi sarebbe decollato un'ora più tardi [mere future action]

    This is future in the past, otherwise you would say will leave an hour later

    - Giuseppe informed me that he was leaving for Paris an hour later = Giuseppe mi comunicò che sarebbe partito per Parigi un'ora più tardi [future planning]

    Either future entirely in the past or it bridges the present ( informed in the past , leaving very soon now). For true future planning you say that he'll be leaving for Paris an hour later (than now or than some future time point referred to in the conversation)

    - Giuseppe informed me that he was going to leave for Paris after an hour= Giuseppe mi comunicò che intendeva partire un'ora dopo [intention].

    Corretto

    Uinni

  2. #22
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    Re: future in the past

    This structure is extremely confusing for both Italians and foreign learners(even advanced ones) because of the radical differences in tense usage/meaning between the two languages.

    This is confirmed by Andysi's question:

    So I am wondering why l'avrebbe fatta dormire was used in this Italian text of Romeo and Juliet??

    Andysi, you may find some answers in the thread mentioned by Brian.

    Maybe I can clarify the difference between the two languages thus: in Italian we cannot differentiate between he said he would tell her and he said he would have told her(if she had not walked out in a huff) simply because we must use the past conditional (che glielo avrebbe detto) in both examples.

    More examples:

    When he said that he knew full well that his words would hurt her deeply
    Here we can only say l'avrebbero ferita

    I knew you would say that
    Sapevo che avresti detto questo

    Now here's an example that shows how our inability to differentiate between would and would have (present vs past conditional) in the "future in the past" combined with hypothetical statements in reported speech can lead to ambiguity in Italian where there is none in English:

    (Luigi is thinking about the past with regret)
    He thought that if he had married Sara they would have been very happy together
    Pensò che se l'avesse sposata sarebbero stati molto felici insieme

    In English there is no ambiguity: he didn't marry her. Luigi is just regretting not doing something many years ago. Sara may even be dead.

    But the Italian sentence can also mean that Luigi is pondering whether he should marry Sara now, i.e. he was thinking that if he married Sara they would be very happy together

    To avoid ambiguity we would have to add a time phrase to the first sentence: ...che se l'avesse sposata tanti anni fa...

    Now, if this thread had been nipped in the bud as a request for help with homework would we ever have had the opportunity to explore all these nuances?

    EDIT: To avoid confusion, I'd like to stress that I highlighted in reported speech because if we use direct speech then we are free to use the present conditional or the past conditional and differentiate the two meanings:

    Luigi pensava: "Se l'avessi sposata saremmo stati molto felici insieme"

    Luigi pensava: "Se la sposassi saremmo molto felici insieme"

    It is only when reporting speech/thoughts/hopes etc that we cannot use the present conditional in Italian
    Last edited by Jana337; 31st July 2007 at 9:45 AM. Reason: thread consolidation

  3. #23
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    Re: future in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by moodywop
    Maybe I can clarify the difference between the two languages thus: in Italian we cannot differentiate between he said he would tell her and he said he would have told her(if she had not walked out in a huff) simply because we must use the past conditional (che glielo avrebbe detto) in both examples.

    Va bene - capisco - alla fine!
    I am glad to have this explained as I was really worried about it!


    Now here's an example that shows how our inability to differentiate between would and would have (present vs past conditional) in the "future in the past" combined with hypothetical statements in reported speech can lead to ambiguity in Italian where there is none in English:

    (Luigi is thinking about the past with regret)
    He thought that if he had married Sara they would have been very happy together
    Pensò che se l'avesse sposata sarebbero stati molto felici insieme

    In English there is no ambiguity: he didn't marry her. Luigi is just regretting not doing something many years ago. Sara may even be dead.

    But the Italian sentence can also mean that Luigi is pondering whether he should marry Sara now, i.e. he was thinking that if he married Sara they would be very happy together

    To avoid ambiguity we would have to add a time phrase to the first sentence: ...che se l'avesse sposata tanti anni fa...

    Now, if this thread had been nipped in the bud as a request for help with homework would we ever have had the opportunity to explore all these nuances?

    EDIT: To avoid confusion, I'd like to stress that I highlighted in reported speech because if we use direct speech then we are free to use the present conditional or the past conditional and differentiate the two meanings:

    Luigi pensava: "Se l'avessi sposata saremmo stati molto felici insieme"

    Luigi pensava: "Se la sposassi saremmo molto felici insieme"
    Whew!!!

    What a great informative reply. You told me everything I needed to know. In fact I just now found examples of the latter two examples (given above) in my Grammar book Soluzioni! where the subjunctive is used with the conditional after "se". Thanks so much!
    Last edited by Jana337; 31st July 2007 at 9:46 AM. Reason: quote tags fixed

  4. #24
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    Re: future in the past

    I, too, still have doubts about the "future in the past". Practical English Usage claims that there is sometimes no difference between using would vs would have in reported speech :

    Direct: If I had any money I'd buy you a drink

    Indirect: She said if she had had any money she would have bought me a drink or she said if she had any money she would buy...

    If the two indirect sentences are indeed interchangeable, as the usage guide states unequivocally, then my previous Luigi/Sara examples are wrong.

    Any input?
    Last edited by Jana337; 31st July 2007 at 9:47 AM. Reason: thread consolidation

  5. #25
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    Re: future in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by moodywop
    Direct: If I had any money I'd buy you a drink

    Indirect: She said if she had had any money she would have bought me a drink or she said if she had any money she would buy...

    If the two indirect sentences are indeed interchangeable, as the usage guide states unequivocally, then my previous Luigi/Sara examples are wrong.

    Any input?
    Not interchangeable to me.
    1. I hear, "She said if she had had any money she would have bought me a drink," and I think, but she didn't have money so she didn't buy me a drink.
    2. I hear, "She said if she had any money she would buy me a drink," and I think, and when I see her she'll let me know if she does have money and can buy me a drink.

  6. #26
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    Re: future in the past

    Hi there Moodywop!

    You raised some valid and interesting points about equivalence of present and past forms of conditional statements in Italian. I take it that having said that the past conditional in Italian is ambiguous, you suggest (from referring to Practical English Usage) that the same may be true for English as well (in reported speech).

    I’ve thought about this over the last few hours and have come to realise that language is really so complex and defies easy categorisation! Anyway, my opinion on the issue you raised would be both yes and no – it depends.

    I do agree with the slant given by Isp re “when we meet”. It does depend on the time frame the speaker is referring to. But to take the simplest case, for your example, “she said if she had any money she would buy me a drink” this is true. There is in effect no real difference for reported speech. This happens because of the word “said”, which “compresses” the past retrospectively. When using direct speech there is a difference because one is dealing with the moment of thought (I would buy you a drink – it’s open ended) and the other with a moment just completed or resolved (I would have bought you a drink – it’s now closed). In reported speech the distinction between the two blurs due to both being in the past and therefore now closed.

    For either direct or reported speech you can even use a hybrid form– “She said if she had any money she would have bought me a drink.” If the hybrid is used it is also equivalent to the standard reported form.
    If I had any money I would have bought = If I’d had any money I would have bought

    I believe this equivalence is due to the dependent conditional clause dominating the sentence, whereas the independent subjunctive clause (If I had) is vague or more freeform. I’m not an English guru, but I suggest this might have occurred due to a drift in expressing subjunctive mood. Although a subjunctive conjugation has almost vanished in English now, the mood itself still exists, but it represented by several forms viz.
    If I had = Had I = Were I to have (present subjunctive)

    If I’d had = Had I had = Were I to have had (past subjunctive)

    If I’d had (past subjunctive) can be substituted with If I had (present subjunctive) if the former is being used to describe a very recent past moment in time (eg the party is breaking up and the participants are about to leave or have just left the pub). Not enough time has elapsed for the condition of “not having enough money” to have changed, so the present subjunctive is applied to the just completed past as well. However later, when a longer time has elapsed it is better to say If I’d had because the status of my cash-in-hand may well be different.

    Now consider the following sentences,

    1. She eyed the journalist across the table and thought blithely that if she had the money she would buy him a drink.

    2. She eyed the journalist across the table and thought blithely that if she’d had the money she would have bought him a drink.

    Although this example is similar to the one above the two sentences convey a subtle but distinct difference in meaning. This is because it is not reported speech, but 3rd person narrative. There is a greater sense of immediacy here, as if we are in the mind of the woman, and so the open-ended vs. closed distinction is preserved, just as in direct speech.

    Now I’ll just add one more comment to the Romeo/Juliet discussion, then I’ll stop! The sentence “He gave her a potion that would put her to sleep” is different from the examples above because the qualifying clause is not conditional and the main clause is not subjunctive. There is a definite cause and effect with no doubt involved. So in this case the adjectival clause that would put her to sleep is purely future in the past. It is interesting to me that Italian uses the conditional form for this. Thanks again for pointing that out.

    Andy


  7. #27
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    Re: future in the past

    This is impeccable on every count Andy - knowledge, reasoning, expression, and it's throrough (maybe a bit more on the earlier now point, to have been clear). Very impressive. It even caused me to print off and think over.

    For a while there, it seemed as if Romeo and Juliet might be in grave danger of confusion with Much Ado About Nothing.

    As a small addition, this is also relevant. It crept in over the course of the thread, unremarked -

    http://www.bartleby.com/64/C001/062.html

    Moody when you see the present tense being used in the manner you describe, this is largely because it is consistent with DIRECTION - directing the play, etc, in other words.

    Uinni whatever impression you may have obtained from the forum here, there is no difficultywith/aversion to the future in the past in English. Each of your examples are acceptable, although the preposition would be 'for', not 'to' in your latter two.

  8. #28
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    Re: future in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by Auno
    Moody when you see the present tense being used in the manner you describe, this is largely because it is consistent with DIRECTION - directing the play, etc, in other words.
    Hi Auno

    Your explanation suggests that the present tense is only used in summarizing the storyline of a play or movie. However the tense is also used when describing the plot of a novel or the story in a narrative poem:

    Young Copperfield is sent to school...where he is bullied by the tyrannical headmaster

    The monster Grendel enters the hall at night and carries off...

    (Oxford Companion to English Literature)

    So I wouldn't say the use of the present is related to directing (although of course directing instructions also use the present) but rather that it is used whenever a fictional story is being summarized.

    By the way, in Italian we often use the present in historical accounts - it makes for a more dramatic effect:

    Il 1° settembre del 1939 Hitler invade la Polonia

    I believe this usage is common in English as well, isn't it?

  9. #29
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    Re: future in the past

    Hi Moody,

    Am about to mail you btw (by the way) - had to do so before the grande partita! (rare Auno exclamation point)

    Well yes, fair/good point. But I'd still say something along this line. Dickens say, is using this as a 'device', in a not dissimilar vein.

    Yes the same does apply sometimes with historical accounts, but again I'd say the same thing - direction of actors in a play.

  10. #30
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    Re: future in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by Auno
    Well yes, fair/good point. But I'd still say something along this line. Dickens say, is using this as a 'device', in a not dissimilar vein.
    Auno

    You're going to think I'm a hopeless pedant but my quote was not from Dickens - both quotes are from the plot summaries in the Oxford Companion.

  11. #31
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    Re: future in the past

    No not at all. It's a good question.

    Sorry to be repetitive, but it's the same in every case - direction-style narrative. How to put this... it's a way, in English, of 'getting through things'...say quickly, or for other reasons.

    Dickens himself does do this here and there, incidentally.

  12. #32
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    Re: future in the past

    Quirk, Greenbaum etc agree with you (in CGEL):

    "A special exception is the use of the present in stage directions...
    Here the present is used by convention, as if to represent the idea that the events of the play are being performed before our eyes as we read the script. A similar convention is used in summaries of narratives"
    (A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Lanuage, Longman)

    On a different note, it's nice to see that the Aussie contingent at IE has recently grown considerably. Apart from Charles, who has for a long time had to carry the burden of acting as our only AustrE consultant, we now have Giacinta, Gemelle, Auno and Andysi (am I forgetting anyone?).

    Could it be the Aussies now outnumber the poms? Still no Kiwis, though.

  13. #33
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    Re: future in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by moodywop
    I agree that when the thread-opener submits a text the forer@ should attempt a translation him/herself first - except, of course, when someone openly states "I can't speak Italian at all. Could you please translate this sentence/phrase I intend to use for a tattoo?"

    However in this case Giulia had translated the whole sentence except for the "future in the past" verb, which she clearly had no clue how to render in English.

    A further point to be made is that we are all learners here. The first/second/third etc translation offered has often proved to be incorrect because of L2 interference. This is exactly what happened with usa_scott's translation, which, thanks to the wrong tense he used, paved the way for a fruitful discussion.
    In a way, the more incorrect/misleading translations are submitted the better, since they highlight differences between the two languages (the L2 interference I have to deal with at school every day ) we may not have noticed before or which are not covered in textbooks, even advanced ones (see the "mica" thread, where the translations provided helped me appreciate a nuance in my own language which I had not noticed even after teaching English to Italians and thus constantly comparing the two languages for 15 years).

    I, too, still have doubts about the "future in the past". Practical English Usage claims that there is sometimes no difference between using would vs would have in reported speech :

    Direct: If I had any money I'd buy you a drink

    Indirect: She said if she had had any money she would have bought me a drink or she said if she had any money she would buy...

    If the two indirect sentences are indeed interchangeable, as the usage guide states unequivocally, then my previous Luigi/Sara examples are wrong.

    Any input?
    Re. "...with usa_scott's translation, which, thanks to the wrong tense he used..."

    Uh... Come again??

    If your primary aim is to keep future-in-the-past structure which, in context, serves no good purpose whatsoever, then go right ahead.

    If, however, an appropriate way of communicating in English is desirable, you'd want it the way I put it.

    (Obviously the latter was/is desired.)

    ;-)

  14. #34
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    Re: future in the past

    Quote Originally Posted by usa_scott
    Re. "...with usa_scott's translation, which, thanks to the wrong tense he used..."

    Uh... Come again??

    If your primary aim is to keep future-in-the-past structure which, in context, serves no good purpose whatsoever, then go right ahead.

    If, however, an appropriate way of communicating in English is desirable, you'd want it the way I put it.

    (Obviously the latter was/is desired.)

    ;-)
    By "the way I put it," do you mean your translation...

    Quote Originally Posted by usa_scott
    He gave her a potion which made her sleep for two days
    I assume you agree that this is not the correct translation. Or if you think it is correct, you at least agree that it's not the literal translation, right? The literal & correct translation would be, "He gave her a potion which would make her sleep for two days." I hope you will agree that this is at least the literal translation, especially in light of the native Italians' corroboration. And to persuade you that it's the correct translation, I refer you to my post #38 to see the differences in meaning among all the possibilities, particularly these two. And finally, if you agree that the two English translations are in fact different, then you must opt for the literal translation. Plus, if the Italian were seeking the meaning you propose, why not just say "...che l'ha fatta dormire due giorni" = "...which made her sleep for two days"?


    Brian
    "I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way."

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