a problematic unreal sentence

< Previous | Next >

kiddo73

Senior Member
I do have some problems with unreal sentences in English.
for example, in this sentence:
"I wish now that I hadn't given up the course as soon as I did."
why can't the underlined words be "didn't give up"?
Is it just because that it is done and there's no chance to change the story now?
 
  • ALEX1981X

    Banned
    Italian
    Is it just because that it is done and there's no chance to change the story now?
    I think so. In this case you're analysing a past event. It's history.

    If you use a simple past like "didn't give up" it means that you want a present situation or a future one to be different

    Wait for a native
     
    Last edited:

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    ALEX1981X is right. 'I wish I didn't' refers to the present.

    'I wish I didn't have to go work today' is a wish to be free of that obligation in the present: a wish that the present could be different.

    'I wish I hadn't hit the boss's car yesterday' is a wish that the past could have been different.
     
    Last edited:

    henryhiggins

    Senior Member
    USA English
    This is the "past perfect" tense. It indicates an action that had already been completed at some point before the present time.
    Simple past tense indicates an action before the present time, but not necessarily completed ("perfected", hence, "past perfect"), and in any case, spoken from the present time.

    Examples:

    Simple past: "I worked late last night." I speak from the present, and describe the past.

    Past perfect: "By the time I left work last night, I had worked more than fifty hours this week."
    I transport myself to a previous time (last night), and describe an action already completed by then (worked more than fifty hours).

    I'll post this, then use your example in the next post.
     

    henryhiggins

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Thanks for help!
    but, why can't we use "had" instead of "did"?
    I wish I hadn't given up the test as soon as I had!
    Your revision is correct. The verb "had" matches the previous verb, "hadn't". "Did" does not match "had".

    So this is proper use of past perfect tense: You transport yourself back to the time of the test, report a completed action (given up), and wish that the completed action were different.
     

    kiddo73

    Senior Member
    you mean that "did" indicates that It has happened in a specific point of time. am I right? in order to show your regret at present?

    Thanks for help!
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Your revision is correct. The verb "had" matches the previous verb, "hadn't". "Did" does not match "had".
    I disagree. When we talk about an unreal situation we use the past form: I am poor (real); I wish I had (not "have") more money (unreal).
    There is no difference in the time, both refer to the present.

    This applies also to a past situation: I stayed(simple past) at home last night. I wish I had gone (past perfect) out. Both refer to the same time, but the "wish" part is unreal, so it moves back to the double past.

    So in our example, I wish I hadn't given up the test as soon as I did, "hadn't given" is a double past, not because it precedes another action but because it's unreal. "I did" is short for "I did give it up" or "I gave it up".

    We can re-write the sentence: I gave up the test too soon; I wish I hadn't.
     

    henryhiggins

    Senior Member
    USA English
    you mean that "did" indicates that It has happened in a specific point of time. am I right? in order to show your regret at present?

    Thanks for help!
    This is more a matter of syntax and euphony. You regretted a "have" action (had given up), so it's good form to stay with "have" (when I had), because the complete (implied) sentence is "I wish I hadn't given up the test as soon as I had given it up."

    If we substitute "did" with that completion, we get
    "I wish I hadn't given up the test as soon as I did (give it up). This is a change of tense, from past perfect to simple past (had given up versus did give up), and we try not to change tense in one sentence that refers to a single action.

    If you start with "did", then you stay with it:

    "I did well on the test, but my friend didn't." ("didn't" = "didn't do well", implied)
    These are (simple) past tense. I speak from the present of yesterday's actions by my friend and me. So we keep consistency of tense, in each separate case.

    I hope this helps.
     

    henryhiggins

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Einstein, sorry about the cross-post.

    Please check authoritative sources on the use of past perfect. It relates not to real or unreal, but to the speaker transporting him/herself mentally back in time, and then reflecting back from there.

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Past_perfect

    The wishfulness is not a factor, to my best knowledge, except in determining whether to use subjunctive/conditional:
    I wish I were a millionaire.

    Past: I took calculus when I was fifteen. Spoken from the present, describing a past action.

    Past perfect: By the time I was fifteen, I had completed all of the math that my high school offered.
    Placing myself back at age fifteen, and describing a *completed* (perfected) action.

    More:

    Present perfect refers to a completed action reflected upon from the present time.

    I have eaten all I care to.

    The auxiliary verb, "have", or some form, helps us to form perfect tenses, both past, present, and future (though of course has other uses).

    Future perfect:
    Speaker transports him/herself mentally to some time in the future, then reflects on an action that will have been completed by then.

    Simple future:

    I shall retire at age 65. ("will" is commonly heard, but that would be a separate thread, so let's not address that.)

    Future Perfect:

    By the time I reach age 65, I shall have accumulated enough savings upon which to retire.

    Note that all of these perfect tenses -- past, present, future -- refer to completed (perfected) actions, hence the use of a form of "have".

    Past perfect = had + past tense or perfect tense (had taken, had completed)
    Present perfect = have + past tense or perfect tense. (have eaten)
    Future perfect: future verb + present perfect usage (shall have accumulated).

    This is very brief. Please explore good sources.
    Thank you,
    Henry H.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Henry, I agree with everything you say, but unfortunately your entire post deals exclusively with indicative uses of the various tenses (i.e. real situations) and doesn't address unreal situations, which are what we're talking about in this thread.

    "I wish I were a millionaire" is preferable to "I wish I was a millionaire", but why do we use the past at all? Are we talking about the past? No, it's a wish about the present; unreal, but present all the same. I'm sure you wouldn't defend a sentence like "I wish I am a millionaire".

    Does this sound wrong? - "I didn't take my father's advice when I was young. I wish I had listened to him."
    Both verbs refer to the same time. We say "had listened" even though there is no intervening past action between my failure to listen in the past and my wishing in the present.

    Of course, in talking about real situations we can say:
    "I made a lot of mistakes because I hadn't listened to my father's advice." Here the use of "hadn't" (though not obligatory in this case) is justified because my mistakes are already in the past and my failure to listen precedes that time. But this is not the case we're talking about.

    I feel full because I've eaten too much. I wish I had eaten less.
    Both verbs refer to the same meal time, but the second refers to an unreal past, which is why "have" becomes "had". Would you say "I wish I ate less", referring to a moment in the past?

    Without the need to explore authoritative sources, do you think these sentences are right or wrong?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    "I wish now that I hadn't given up the course as soon as I did" is perfectly correct.

    Proof: it can be rephrased as "I did give up the course too soon; I wish now that I hadn't."
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top