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Thread: they assumed there would be room (future in the past)

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    they assumed there would be room (future in the past)

    I'm trying to find how you express English's 'future in the past' (I can't find any more grammatical term for this) in German.

    It occurs when you consider an action in the past and then a second action that occurred after that but still in the past. English uses the past tense of 'will' (would).

    Examples:

    "They brought all their belongings along and assumed there *would be* room for them."

    "I didn't understand it at the time, but I hoped it *would get* clearer as I progressed."

    I'm not just after a translation of these sentences, rather an explanation of how this time relation is expressed in German Language.

    Thanks for any thoughts that people have.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    In these cases, it can be build similar, using "Konjunktiv".

    Sie brachten all ihre Sachen mit und nahmen an, es würde genügend Platz für sie geben.

    Ich verstand es damals nicht, hoffte aber, es würde klarer werden, je länger ich mich damit beschäftige.


    See also
    http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konjunktiv

    Here is another example, it is from the Wikipedia.
    Nachzeitigkeit des Geschehens in Bezug auf die Wiedergabe durch den Dritten

    Tom berichtete, dass Daniel gleich in die Schule gehen werde. (= indirekte Rede; der Gang in die Schule ist dem Bericht durch Tom zeitlich nachgelagert; richtig ist daher der Konjunktiv I Futur)
    (same source)
    Last edited by Hutschi; 19th April 2011 at 10:26 AM.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    The choice of examples wasn't very fortunate because there are possible irrealis interpretations (hope, assume) and in German the irrealis can always be expressed with the Konjunktiv.

    Let me try to construct an example of a pure historic future in the realis. Here is a sentence in the present involving an unconditional future action:
    He goes to the supermarket to buy some groceries and takes his briefcase with him because he will go straight to work afterwards.
    The German equivalent of this sentence is:
    Er geht zum Supermarkt um einige Lebensmittel zu kaufen und nimmt seine Aktentasche mit, weil er anschließend gleich zur Arbeit geht/gehen wird.
    In German, future can practically always be replaced by present as long as the context is clear.

    Placing the scene in the past, we obtain in English:
    He went to the supermarket to buy some groceries and took his briefcase with him because he would go straight to work afterwards.
    In German one could say:
    Er ging zum Supermarkt um einige Lebensmittel zu kaufen und nahm seine Aktentasche mit, weil er anschließend gleich zur Arbeit ging.

    A past tense equivalent to gehen wird analogous to English would go does not exist. If you wanted to make it more explicit that there is a difference between the time of narration and the time of him going to work you would have to rephrase the sentence, e.g.:
    Er ging zum Supermarkt um einige Lebensmittel zu kaufen und nahm seine Aktentasche mit, weil er vor hatte anschließend gleich zur Arbeit zu gehen.
    He went to the supermarket to buy some groceries and took his briefcase with him because he intended to go straight to work afterwards.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    • Er ging zum Supermarkt um einige Lebensmittel zu kaufen und nahm seine Aktentasche mit, weil er anschließend gleich zur Arbeit gehen wollte.


    Ich denke, hier funktioniert "weil er anschließend zur Arbeit ging" nicht, weil es zum Erzählzeitpunkt nur Absicht war.

    I think in this case there is another difficulty.
    It also expresses an intention, that is why "weil" (because of) together with "zur Arbeit ging" does not work (there is a semantic problem). He did not know this at the time of the sentence whether he actually would go to work, or if somebody had broken a bottle of oil as in Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita" with the strange result that he died before going to work in an accident.

    But following is very default:


    Er ging zum Supermarkt und anschließend zur Arbeit.

    Er begann
    1965, Russisch zu lernen, und zwei Jahre später fing er mit Englisch an.

    As you see, in such cases we can use simple past together with explanations.


    So w
    e have to consider two cases:

    1. The future in the past is over/closed. I see it from now. (Narrator's time is now. He knows what happened.)
      Weil er zu spät kam, musste er nachsitzen. (This happened, it is for sure, if the narrator is not lying.)
      Nachdem er eine Stunde gelernt hatte, ging er schlafen.
    2. The future in the past is considered as in the future. So it is not determined yet (if you are not a fatalist.)

      Weil er zu spät kam, würde er nachsitzen müssen.
      Nachdem er es untersucht hatte, würde er schlauer sein.

    If we compare it with future time, only the second is relevant.

    • Weil er zu spät kommen wird, wird er nachsitzen müssen. (It contains uncertainty)
    • Wenn er nächste Woche die Prüfung besteht, kann er in Urlaub fahren. Sonst wird er die Prüfung wiederholen müssen.
    Last edited by Hutschi; 19th April 2011 at 2:13 PM.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by Hutschi View Post
    Er ging zum Supermarkt um einige Lebensmittel zu kaufen und nahm seine Aktentasche mit, weil er anschließend gleich zur Arbeit gehen wollte.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hutschi View Post

    Ich denke, hier funktioniert "weil er anschließend zur Arbeit ging" nicht, weil es zum Erzählzeitpunkt nur Absicht war.
    This is precisely the difference. In English you can formulate this in a way that it does not express a mere intention but a fact (because he would go). There is no equivalent in German.

    Here is another pair of present/past narration time sentences involving a future:
    He is bitten by a deadly snake and because has no antidote he will die
    He was bitten by a deadly snake and because he had no antidote he would die
    The first sentence is
    Er wird von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hat, wird er sterben
    in German. I have no idea how to represent the second one in German.
    Last edited by berndf; 19th April 2011 at 2:24 PM.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Ich würde sagen:

    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, würde er sterben müssen/war er dem Tode geweiht.

    Entspricht das dem englischen Satz?

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Eben nicht 100%. Im Englischen heißt es er wird sterben, Punktum! Aber transponiert in die Vergangenheit.

    PS: Man kann sagen
    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, würde er sterben.
    Aber weil würde hier im Konjunktiv steht, hat der Satz doch noch eine Konnotation des sich von der Aussage Distanzierens (die Zukunft ist nicht sicher), die im Englischen völlig fehlt. Aber dies ist wohl die nächste Annäherung an das englische historic future, die möglich ist.
    Last edited by berndf; 19th April 2011 at 2:52 PM.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Würde es mit "Sollte" funktionieren?

    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, sollte er (schon bald) sterben.

    (Aber das hat dann eben wieder einen anderen Beobachtungsstandpunkt. "Schon bald" beseitigt das Manko zum Teil.)


    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, kam der Tod.

    Das erfüllt die Bedingung der Unausweichlichkeit, und in "kam" ist die "Nachzeitigkeit" enthalten.

    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, war der Tod unausweichlich.
    Hier wird der Status beschrieben, nicht die Handlung ...

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Ja, so müsste man sich wohl behelfen.

    Wenn eine explizite Zeitangabe vorkommt, die die Nachzeitigkeit anzeigt, kann man auch Präteritum verwenden:
    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, starb er einen Tag später.
    Dies geht auch im Englischen:
    He was bitten by a deadly snake and because he had no antidote he died one day later.
    Dies würde ich dann so analysieren, dass man durch ein Fortschreiten Lassen der Erzählzeit die Notwendigkeit für eine solche Zeitform umgangen hat.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by TMiguelT View Post
    "They brought all their belongings along and assumed there *would be* room for them."

    "I didn't understand it at the time, but I hoped it *would get* clearer as I progressed."
    Quote Originally Posted by Hutschi View Post
    In these cases, it can be build similar, using "Konjunktiv".

    Sie brachten all ihre Sachen mit und nahmen an, es würde genügend Platz für sie geben.

    Ich verstand es damals nicht, hoffte aber, es würde klarer werden, je länger ich mich damit beschäftige.
    Quote Originally Posted by berndf View Post
    The choice of examples wasn't very fortunate because there are possible irrealis interpretations (hope, assume) and in German the irrealis can always be expressed with the Konjunktiv.
    More specifically, the OP's sentences are simply non-committal with respect to realis/irrealis. For ex., the first can quite naturally be expanded to either
    They brought all their belongings along and assumed there would be room for them, which indeed there was.
    or
    They brought all their belongings along and assumed there would be room for them, but found the available space much too small.

    Are you saying that Hutschi's translations are consistent only with an irrealis assumption on the part of the speaker?
    Quote Originally Posted by berndf View Post
    He goes to the supermarket to buy some groceries and takes his briefcase with him because he will go straight to work afterwards.
    ...
    Placing the scene in the past, we obtain in English:
    He went to the supermarket to buy some groceries and took his briefcase with him because he would go straight to work afterwards.
    To my intuition, this construction is commonly used, and fully acceptable, in writing. However I would not expect to hear it spoken; rather: was planning to go, was expecting to go, or just was going.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan2 View Post
    Are you saying that Hutschi's translations are consistent only with an irrealis assumption on the part of the speaker?
    Yes, because würde is unambiguously Konjunktiv II. Indikativ Präteritum is wurde and none of these translations would work:
    Sie brachten all ihre Sachen mit und nahmen an, es *wurde genügend Platz für sie geben.
    Ich verstand es damals nicht, hoffte aber, es *wurde klarer werden, je länger ich mich damit beschäftige.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    If I understood the question (in#1) correctly, it was not about 1:1 translation of grammatical forms but about how it works in German.
    In German we often use the Konjunktiv (I or II, depending on context).

    I will give an example:

    Er wusste, wenn er kein Gegengift erhielte, würde der Tod kommen.

    In the original question we have "assumed" , "understand" and "hoped" - in these cases I do not see any problem with conjunctive.
    In other cases there are other possibilities to express the times. In some cases you may have to use other constructions or idioms to keep the meaning.

    I think, that in many cases the context helps.

    In the special case: "Er wusste, der Tod würde kommen." "würde" is clear because of "wusste". There is no daubt that he would die. There is no condition.

    But in "Er wusste, der Tod würde kommen, wenn er keine Medizin bekäme." it is reversed, and there is a condition.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by Hutschi View Post
    In the special case: "Er wusste, der Tod würde kommen." "würde" is clear because of "wusste". There is no daubt that he would die. There is no condition.
    Why then do we use Konjunktiv II here and cannot use Indikativ? After all, we use Indikative in Präsens:
    Er weiß, der Tod wird kommen.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    I think it is a kind of indirect speech. I am not sure.
    But you can use indicative here, too.

    Er wusste, der Tod wird kommen.

    I am not sure about: Er wusste, der Tod werde kommen.

    But I think this is stile for literature rather than coll. language.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by Hutschi View Post
    I think it is a kind of indirect speech. I am not sure.
    But you can use indicative here, too.

    Er wusste, der Tod wird kommen.
    In your understanding, it is clear that wird is relative to narration time and not realative to now?

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by berndf View Post
    In your understanding, it is clear that wird is relative to narration time and not relative to now?

    Er wusste, der Tod wird kommen.

    Yes, I think this is clear. The time is when he recognized it in this context.
    And it is clear from context that it is not the death because of age.

    Another one is:
    Er wusste, der Tod kommt.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Vielleicht wäre die folgende Zusammenfassung hilfreich (wenn sie richtig ist!).

    werden hat drei verschiedene Verwendungen:

    1. = englisches "become": Er wird alt.
    2. Um das Passiv zu bilden: Er wird (von der Polizei) gesucht.
    3. Um das Futur zu bilden: Er wird essen.

    werden hat ein Präteritum (wurde, -est, ...); dieses Präteritum kann aber nur in den ersten zwei Fällen verwendet werden, um eine entsprechende Vergangenheitsform zu konstruieren:

    1. Er wird alt => Er wurde alt.
    2. Er wird gesucht => Er wurde gesucht.
    3. Er ist hungrig und wird (bald) essen => *Er war hungrig und wurde (bald) essen.

    [In geschriebenem Englisch (in Erzählungen) aber:
    3. He is hungry and will (soon) eat => He was hungry and would (soon) eat.]

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by Hutschi View Post

    Er wusste, der Tod wird kommen.

    Yes, I think this is clear. The time is when he recognized it in this context.
    And it is clear from context that it is not the death because of age.

    Another one is:
    Er wusste, der Tod kommt.
    This again only works because these kind of sentences do not talk about XXX-ing directly but about knowing, thinking, wishing, fearing, doubling, saying, etc. XXX and use constructs similar to the irrealis. In sentences asserting directly something about XXX-ing in the future relative to the past, this trick doesn't work:
    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, wird er sterben.
    The above sentence implies that he is still alive now. I see no way to find an equivalent of
    He was bitten by a deadly snake and because he had no antidote he would die
    without altering the contents of the sentence, i.e. replacing the indicative by subjunctive which as semantic implications or changing the statement to an assertion about knowing to die or about death approaching rather then simply about dying.

    In practice, this isn't a real problem because you will always find a way to phrase such a statement in a way that avoids the need of an indicative historic future. The point is just that you should be prepared to rephrase your statement when translating from English rather than finding an exact semantic equivalent.


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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan2 View Post
    Vielleicht wäre die folgende Zusammenfassung hilfreich (wenn sie richtig ist!).

    werden hat drei verschiedene Verwendungen:

    1. = englisches "become": Er wird alt.
    2. Um das Passiv zu bilden: Er wird (von der Polizei) gesucht.
    3. Um das Futur zu bilden: Er wird essen.

    werden hat ein Präteritum (wurde, -est, ...); dieses Präteritum kann aber nur in den ersten zwei Fällen verwendet werden, um eine entsprechende Vergangenheitsform zu konstruieren:

    1. Er wird alt => Er wurde alt.
    2. Er wird gesucht => Er wurde gesucht.
    3. Er ist hungrig und wird (bald) essen => *Er war hungrig und wurde (bald) essen.

    [In geschriebenem Englisch (in Erzählungen) aber:
    3. He is hungry and will (soon) eat => He was hungry and would (soon) eat.]
    I'll subscribe to that.

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    Re: 'Future in the past' - "...they assumed there would be room"

    Quote Originally Posted by berndf View Post
    In sentences asserting directly something about XXX-ing in the future relative to the past, this trick doesn't work:
    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, wird er sterben. ...

    I am aware that there is no exact semantic equivalent. If you take "exact" as "exact" there are very few translations exact.

    The question is "what is exact enough?"

    For "would" my dictionary gives "sollte", "wollte", and "würde". I suppose none of them is exact in all situations.

    But following works:
    Er wurde von einer tödlichen Schlange gebissen, und weil er kein Gegengift hatte, sollte er sterben.

    This is an additional German way to indicate future in the past.

    It is not exactly the same in syntax, but semantically it is near.
    "Sollte", however, has also different meanings. In the given sentence it does not mean "meant to", but it lost such meanings. It is has only grammatical function here, compared with "ich soll Kartoffeln schälen".

    But this phrase (sollte er sterben) is only mostly used in literatur.

    Compare: "Er sollte sterben, aber er wurde gerettet". Here "sollte" has the meaning "someone wanted him to die ... - this is very different.

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