Would Be/would have been

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sunyaer, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. sunyaer Senior Member

    I found these two sentences on the news page at christianpost.com


    The title is: Bill Clinton: 'A Few Years Ago,' Obama Would Be 'Carrying Our Bags'

    While the sentence in the article is like this:

    "a few years ago, this guy (Obama) would have been carrying our bags."

    This is about subjunctive mood in English. As Bill Clinton was talking about the past, "would have been" seems more appropriate. However, the title uses "would be", which is about the present or future, why?
  2. waltern Senior Member

    English - USA
    For the sake of conciseness, news headlines often do not conform to the typical rules of grammar.
  3. Radrook Senior Member

    English American/Spanish Caribean

    "would be" refers to what he would be supposedly doing were the past situation the present.

    "would have been" refers only to what he would supposedly have been doing in the past.
  4. sunyaer Senior Member

    Would you explain this in another way. It does not make sense to me. "what...were the past situation the present"??

    But the phrase "a few years ago" has limited the situation being in the past.
    Also, why is the title using tense that is different than tense in a sentence in the article, which should be consistent.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013
  5. Radrook Senior Member

    English American/Spanish Caribean
    "If I were" (the past subjunctive) is appropriate in stating conditions that are contrary to fact:
    If I were a bell, I'd go ding dong ding dong ding. (Frank Loesser)

    If I were a carpenter and you were a lady, would you marry me anyway? (Tim Hardin)

    If I were a rich man, [yadda, yadda, yadda]. (Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock)​
    Each of the above sentences states a condition that is not the case: I'm not a bell, not a carpenter, not a rich man.

    "If I was" (the past indicative) is appropriate in stating conditions that are not contrary to fact. Here you might say that the truth or falsity of the condition is not certain:
    Was I rude? I'm not sure that I really was. But if I was rude, I'm sorry.

    If I was to train as a carpenter, I would get to wear safety goggles.​
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2013
  6. sunyaer Senior Member

    This does not make sense to me? Anything missing there?
  7. Lis48

    Lis48 Senior Member

    York, England
    English - British
    Nothing is missing but put into a simpler construction, he means:
    "would be" refers to what he would be supposedly doing if the past situation was (were to be) the present.

    But the simple explanation to your question was given by waltern in post 2.
    The sentence "A Few Years Ago, Obama Would Be Carrying Our Bags" has been shortened because of space as a headline and the grammar has suffered as a result.
    So yes, you are right to be confused!
  8. sunyaer Senior Member

    I feel that "would be" is not about the past situation, rather about a assumptive present that is in contrary to the reality.

Share This Page