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

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by gi*, Jul 7, 2006.

  1. gi* New Member

    italy
    Ciao,I have to write about the tragedy Romeo and Juliet. I have a problem about English grammarc: I don't know how can I write in English "the future in the past". I know that it sounds a bit strange..I hope you'll understand!!:D
    I have to translate something like: Le dette una "pozione" che L'AVREBBE FATTA DORMIRE due giorni... = He gave her a ???? which ????? for two days..
    giulia
     
  2. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    "He gave her a potion which made her sleep for two days."
     
  3. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    "He gave her a potion which will make her sleep for two days"

    This is a bit ungainly. It means that the potion has already been given but she has not yet fallen asleep.

    "he gave her a potion which would make her sleep for two days"

    We really wouldn't say it in this way. Its OK, but not ideal.

    "He gave her a potion which made her sleep for two days"

    This "sounds" better is the least convoluted of all of the above.
     
  4. fran06

    fran06 Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian Italy
    Would you say it like this?
     
  5. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    Originally Posted by usa_scott

    "he gave her a potion which would eventually make her sleep for two days"

    We really wouldn't say it in this way.



    Only if it is a very slow-acting potion or if the potion is made to activate at a time significantly later than the time at which it is swallowed. This could even imply that the potion would make her sleep some number of days/weeks/months or even years later.
     
  6. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    You could use "He gave her a potion which would put her to sleep for two days".

    But again, this indicates that there is at least a bit of time between swallowing the potion and falling asleep.
     
  7. uinni

    uinni Senior Member

    Italy, Italian
    This actually translates:
    "Le dette una pozione che la fece dormire per due giorni".
    Yet the requested translation is about "l'avrebbe fatta", which indeed requires the future in the past.

    Uinni
     
  8. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    You could introduce another nuance such as "He decided to give...".

    This would alleviate the time lag between swallowing and sleeping.
     
  9. uinni

    uinni Senior Member

    Italy, Italian
    And in fact this is the meaning of "l'avrebbe fatta" (future in the past"!).

    Uinni
     
  10. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    If you must have this "future in the past" then my suggestion would be "He decided to give a potion which would put her to sleep for two days" or "He planned to..." or the like.
     
  11. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    In my experience of performances of the play she takes the potion and falls asleep. The following are possible:

    He gave her a potion which made her sleep for two days.
    He gave her a potion to put her to sleep for two days.

    The use of would to construct the future in the past implies a delay between the taking and the falling asleep. Would could be used to express the conditional relationship between her sleeping and his decision:

    He was thinking about giving her a potion which would make her sleep for two days.
     
  12. uinni

    uinni Senior Member

    Italy, Italian

    It's amazing how this (English) future in the past is disliked by anglosaxon foreros.
    So to understand this mystery (why putting forth all this "he was thinking/planning and so on and so on) I ask the connected anglosaxons to tell me what they think about the following sentences.

    - Giuseppe informed me that the airplane to Paris would leave an hour later = Giuseppe mi comunicò che l'aereo da Parigi sarebbe decollato un'ora più tardi [mere future action]
    - Giuseppe informed me that he was leaving to Paris an hour later = Giuseppe mi comunicò che sarebbe partito per Parigi un'ora più tardi [future planning]
    - Giuseppe informed me that he was going to leave to Paris after an hour= Giuseppe mi comunicò che intendeva partire un'ora dopo [intention].

    Uinni
     
  13. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    He gave her a potion to make it look as if she was / were dead for two days.

    Or (I've just thought of a sentence using would. However, this is a bit of past habit combined with the future in the past)

    He gave her a potion so that she would appear to be dead for two days.


    The were word is be in the past tense and subjunctive mood which some people prefer to use over was. Others are content with was.

    The form of my sentences and the vocabulary I have used might not be appropriate for the text you are producing.
     
  14. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    Since potions (in general) are not intrinsically bad, the malevolent nature of this particular offering should be clarified:

    "He gave her a poisoned potion..."

    Otherwise, giving her a potion to induce sleep seems to indicate that potions in general are used in such a way.

    After all, the witch didn't just give Sleeping Beauty an apple. She gave her a poisoned apple.

    I would also use something like "...to induce a death-like sleep for two days..."
     
  15. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Yes.

    He gave her a potion which will make her fall asleep = He has already given her a potion but she is currently not yet asleep

    He gave her a potion which made her fall asleep = He has already given her a potion and she has already fallen asleep (probably, but not always, just after the adminstering of the potion)

    He gave her a potion which would make her fall asleep = He has already given her a potion, and in the present time that I am telling you this, she has already fallen asleep, yet in the context of my storytelling you, she may or may not have fallen asleep yet.


    Let me elaborate. If I am narrating the Romeo & Juliet story and I want to tell you some events that happened in between the time he gave her the potion and the time that she fell asleep, I would say He gave her a potion which would make her fall asleep:

    He gave her a potion which would (eventually :)) make her fall asleep. In the meantime, such and such happened, etc etc etc etc. Later on, she fell asleep.


    If I'm not going to include any extra narration in between the adminstering of the potion and the falling asleep, I would just say:

    He gave her a potion that made her fall asleep. [end of event, now moving on...] Then such and such, etc. etc,...

    I should also add that the sentence He gave her a potion which would make her fall asleep adds a small hint of "intent" as well as the possibility of failure. So one could write: He gave her a potion which would (with which he intended to) make her fall asleep, but soon after drinking it, she found an antidote to stay awake!

    Hope this helps.


    Brian
     
  16. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    I hope I explained the English differences well enough. And this may be of some help going from Italian to English or vice versa.


    Brian
     
  17. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    I've just realized what sounded odd to me about the examples. Don't you normally use the present tense when describing the plot of a play/novel etc (as opposed to when you're telling a child a fairy story)? You would say Hamlet confronts Gertrude and tells her that..., wouldn't you? (rather than Hamlet confronted...)
     
  18. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    Point well-made. If you're a narrator, yes, likely. If you're merely a "storyteller" then either way would be OK.
     
  19. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Yes, that's a good point, especially when writing a paper/report should you always speak in present tense about the play/novel. But now the "would" plot thickens...

    Referring to my previous post, if you want to have the sense that the action of giving the potion as well as the effects of the potion are both completed, you say:

    He gives her a potion that makes her fall asleep.

    If you want to have the sense that the action of giving the potion is completed but the effects are either not yet begun or not yet completed, you say:

    He gives her a potion to make her fall asleep. In the meantime, such and such happens, etc. etc. Then she falls asleep.

    Here, I use "to make" as I had described in my previous post--it has the idea of "intent." To make = in order to make = for the purpose of making = with the intention of making.

    You could also have a scenario in which he gives her a potion but she has not drunk it yet (and thus the effects are not yet begun). The above sentence with "to make" could imply this, or you could say:

    He gives her a potion that will (whenever she should drink it) make her fall asleep.

    I would not read this sentence as if he gives her the potion, she drinks it, but the effects are not begun/completed. Instead, I read this as if she has not drunk it yet. Others may disagree.

    To complicate matters a bit further, these sentences only make sense with the article a preceding potion. You could also have:

    He gives her the potion that would make her fall asleep, implying He gives her the one potion (the very potion she needs) that is capable of making her fall asleep...no other potions work.

    Now, with this in mind, if I said He gives her a potion that would make her fall asleep, I mean that He gives her a potion from a number of possible potions capable of making her fall asleep.

    The difference I see when using "would" is that it's more of a favor...as if she goes to him asking which potion(s) would make her fall asleep, and he gives her the potion, or a potion, capable of doing so. There is no "intent" on his part to make her fall asleep...it is her intent. And the difference between a and the is how many potions are capable of doing the job.

    And to conclude, I should mention that in book-report writing, you would generally not see the following:

    He gives her a potion that made her fall asleep. [rather nonsensical, but again, changing a to the gives He gives her the potion that made her fall asleep, meaning He presently gives her the one potion that, in the past [already completed], made her fall asleep, but now she is awake again to receive it.]

    He gives her a potion that may/might make her fall asleep. [this tries to impart some uncertainty upon the person giving the potion, i.e. his uncertainty as to whether or not the potion will work...but one should say instead, He gives her a potion that he thinks will make her fall asleep]

    He gives her a potion that should make her fall asleep. [tries to do the above, but is nonsense, too...use "he thinks should"]

    Finally, you can have the usual conditional: He gives her a potion that would have made her fall asleep, if she had not found an antidote.

    I think those are all the cases, and I apologize if I provided too many unnecessary examples in the (somewhat vane) attempt to be thorough. :D


    Brian
     
  20. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    NY
    US, English
    When I read "Le dette una 'pozione' che L'AVREBBE FATTA DORMIRE due giorni" I spontaneously thought "he gave her a potion which would make her sleep for two days" or "he gave her a potion to make her sleep for two days."
     
  21. Andysi

    Andysi Junior Member

    Brisbane
    English Australia
     
  22. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    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:


    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
     
  23. Andysi

    Andysi Junior Member

    Brisbane
    English Australia
    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!
     
  24. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    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:confused: :

    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?
     
  25. lsp

    lsp Senior Member

    NY
    US, English
    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.
     
  26. Andysi

    Andysi Junior Member

    Brisbane
    English Australia
    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

     
  27. Auno Senior Member

    Australia - English
    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.
     
  28. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    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?
     
  29. Auno Senior Member

    Australia - English
    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.
     
  30. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    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.
     
  31. Auno Senior Member

    Australia - English
    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.
     
  32. moodywop Banned

    Southern Italy
    Italian - Italy
    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.
     
  33. usa_scott Senior Member

    Washington D.C.
    USA/English
    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.)

    ;-)
     
  34. brian

    brian Senior Member

    Montréal
    AmE (New Orleans)
    By "the way I put it," do you mean your translation...

    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
     

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