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EN: vous devriez vous en occuper

Discussion in 'French and English Grammar / Grammaire française et anglaise' started by bettymiss, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. bettymiss Senior Member

    French
    Bonjour,

    Je me demandais si SHOULD pouvait être utilisé dans une phrase au conditionnel avec un sens identique à celui qui est exprimé dans un contexte présent.
    Je m'explique:
    Je peux dire dans un contexte présent: You should look after your little brother.
    Mais puis-je dire: If you had a little brother, you should look after him?

    Cette deuxième proposition me paraît incorrecte et j'aurais tendance à dire: you would have to look after him. Ai-je raison? Quelle est l'explication?

    Merci!
     
  2. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Oui, selon moi tu as raison. If you had a little brother, you would have to look after him. Autrement dit, il vous faudrait vous en occuper. Mais une explication, là je sèche, désolée....
     
  3. moustic Senior Member

    near Limoges
    British English
    You should look after your little brother -> vous devriez vous occuper de votre petit frère. (conseil)

    If you had a little brother, you would have to look after him -> ... vous seriez obligé de vous en occuper (constatation)

    "should" est impossible dans un énoncé hypothétique.
     
  4. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    That's perhaps a bit oversimplified, since we tend to use the word "hypothetical" quite generally to refer to all sorts of if-then statements.

    We can certainly say:

    If your brother cries, you should comfort him.
    [=In the event that your brother cries...]
    Si ton frère se met à pleurer, tu dois le consoler.

    If you tripped your little brother by accident, then you should have apologized right away.*
    [Supposed, benefit-of-the-doubt reality: you did trip him by accident. Clear reality: you did not apologize.]
    Si/puisque/en supposant que/etc. tu as (aies) fait tomber ton petit frère par inadvertance, tu aurais dû lui demander pardon tout de suite.

    But we cannot say "If you had a little brother, you should comfort him" for the simple reason that we require the present conditional to complete a contrary-to-fact statement, whereas "should" is a present tense semi-modal auxiliary. "If you had a little brother..." is a clear indication that you do not have one, so this is undeniably a contrary-to-fact statement. Since "should" has no infinitive, we have to switch to a synonymous expression like "to have to" or "to need to" and then conjugate that verb in the present conditional --> you would have to, you would need to

    *Don't confuse the mixed tenses English allows in this last example with a purely imaginary situation:
    If you tripped your little brother by accident, you would apologize right away.
    Si tu faisais trébucher ton petit frère par inadvertance, tu lui demanderais pardon.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
  5. bettymiss Senior Member

    French
    Thank you very much for these very useful explanations!
    "you had better" is not possible in such a context either, is it?
    I mean, we cannot say: If you had a little brother, you had better look after him*
     
  6. jann

    jann co-mod'

    English - USA
    No, "you had better look after him" means tu as intérêt à t'occuper de lui. Appearances to the contrary, [subject + had better + infinitive] is used as a set expression in the present. We need a conditional for a contrary-to-fact situation.

    If you have a little brother, you had better look after him.
    [Reality: some people have little brothers. If you are one of those people, then....]
    Si tu as un petit frère, tu as intérêt à t'occuper de lui.

    If you had a little brother, you would be well-advised to look after him.
    [Reality: you do not have a little brother]
    Si tu avais un petit frère, tu aurais intérêt à t'occuper de lui.
     

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