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I wish he realized that she had/has too many commitments.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JungKim, May 5, 2014.

  1. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Context:
    There's a female "I" know of.
    I think that she has too many commitments.
    There's a male who knows of her; He doesn't realize that she has too many commitments.

    In this context, I say:
    (1) I wish he realized that she has too many commitments. [not backshifted]
    (2) I wish he realized that she had too many commitments. [backshifted]

    CGEL has (2) as an example of 'backshift' at page 153.

    Is (1) also possible in this context?
    In other words, is the backshift mandatory or not in this context?
     
  2. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    (1) is correct. The action is wholly in the present. You have the past subjunctive after I wish even though the action is in the present. I wish he were here (but he isn't). I wish he didn't smoke so much (but he does). So the mere fact that realised is in the past tense isn't an indication that you want had and not has.
    (2) is also correct. Her commitments were in the past and your wishing and his failure to realise she had them are in the present. So the choice between has and had changes the meaning of the sentence.

    He realised she had too many commitments on its own would be wholly in the past.
    You could say I wish he had realised she had too many commitments. Your wishing is in the present. Her commitments were in the past and his failure to realise she had them was in the past.
    Perhaps you could tell us exactly what's on page 153.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
  3. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Here's the exact wording of CGEL.
    Sentence (2) is subsequently shown in CGEL as an example satisfying condition [13i].
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
  4. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean

    The boldfaced portion is not the context I have laid out in the OP or the context of CGEL.
    In CGEL, the context of (2) is that her commitments are in the present.

     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
  5. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    Personally I'd take (2) to mean that her commitments were in the past. If they're in the present, what tense would express the idea that they were in the past? There isn't one left.
    I'm unfamiliar with the term 'matrix clause'. It sounds as though he realised is the matrix clause. Although realised is past tense, its meaning is present. You want a something - his realising - to occur now.
     
  6. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Yes, the matrix clause here refers to the 'realised' clause.
    But CGEL makes it clear that the time of his realising is present, and that so is the time of her having too many commitments.
     
  7. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    If the time of her having too many commitments is present, is (2) not possible?
     
  8. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    I think it's possible, although, if I were to make a judgement just from the bald statements in the OP, I personally would say (1) was present and (2) was past. However, if I were talking to a friend who said (2) to mean the present, I don't think I'd regard this as a mistake. Perhaps, as is often the case in English, context is important when you decide the meaning of a sentence.

    I think you've touched upon a grey area. I wish he knew what he was doing is present, even though was doing is past.
     
  9. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    Thanks.
    CGEL also has this example:
    If he knew she had too many commitments, he would do something about it.
    The context is the same as above. The time of her having too many commitments is present, as is the time of his knowing.

    Now, would you also prefer has instead of had here?
    (If he knew she has too many commitments, he would do something about it.)
     
  10. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    In this case, is it a mistake to say I wish he knew what he is doing when the time of his doing is present?
     
  11. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    I'd prefer what he was doing.
    I'd prefer If he knew she had too many commitments, he would do something about it - probably because of the presence of the would.
     
  12. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    So I take it that both "is" and "has" are possible, albeit not preferable. Thanks!
     
  13. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    Sorry for not making myself clear. I'd say that is and has were wrong.
     
  14. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    (3) I wish he realized that she has/had too many commitments. [OP's (2)]
    (4) I wish he knew what he *is/was doing. [Your own example]

    So you're saying that both has and had are possible in (3) whereas only was is possible in (4).
    How do I distinguish (3) and (4)?
     
  15. rhitagawr

    rhitagawr Senior Member

    British English
    It's probably that (3) is past simple and (4) is imperfect.
     
  16. JungKim Senior Member

    Korean
    I looked hard at your response but couldn't figure out what it means.
    Could you please elaborate a little more?
     

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