Had the choice been his,

Discussion in 'English Only' started by thetazuo, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Gladly would he have given her the promise she wanted, and gladly walked her back to his own bedchamber on his arm to let her dress in the silks and velvets she loved so much. Had the choice been his, she could have sat beside him at Joffrey’s wedding feast, and danced with all the bears she liked. But he could not see her hang. (Game of Thrones)

    Context: "he" is Tyrion and "her" is Shae. Tyrion loves Shae, a whore, so he wants to fulfill her desires. But Tyrion's father forbids this relationship and promises to hang Shae if he finds Tyrion with Shae. Joffrey’s wedding is a few days off.

    I have a small question. Which time does the bold part "Had the choice been his" refer to? Past, present or future?
    Thank you.
     
  2. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    London
    British English
    It's a way of saying "If the choice had been his" so there is no 'time' involved- it's an unreal situation, a hypothesis, so the past is used as in a 'conditional' but the story is about the past.
    The 'present' would be "If the choice were his, he would gladly let her ...". Inverted it would be 'Were the choice his, he would gladly let her ...".
     
  3. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Hi. Thank you, HG. I have just found another sentence which resembles my OP example.
    (324) a. If you had been a carpenter, you could have mended these rolling shutters {yesterday / today / tomorrow}.
    (Conditionals A Comprehensive Empirical Analysis)
    According to explanations in this book,
    So I think "Had the choice been his" can refer to any time, be it past, present, or future. Does this make sense?
     
  4. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    Cheshire
    English / England
    It means “IF he had the option to choose or decide”. It is an observation on his lack of ability to choose for himself.
     
  5. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    London
    British English
    That's what I meant when I wrote the above. But the verb changes from 'had been' to 'were', if we are using the structure in the present.

    Right now, I'm asking all my friends what they will would do if they are were in my situation. The forms 'would' and 'were' are used because it's hypothetical, unreal. That, I suppose is what 'counter- factual' means.

    "Last year, I asked all my friends what they would have done if they had been in my situation". Because I am talking about last year and it's reported speech I back shift 'would do' and 'were' to give 'would have done' and 'had been'. Nothing has changed about the unreality of the situation.
     
  6. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Sorry, I beg to differ. I don't see any backshifting involved in my example. And did you read #3?
     
  7. e2efour

    e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 76)
    UK English
    The counterfactual conditional sentence in #1 is not an example of direct speech, although it is part of a narrative in the past.
    Your conclusion about whether temporal reference is in the past, present or future is correct.

    Turn it into his actual thoughts: If the choice was/were mine, she could sit beside him at Joffrey’s wedding feast, which clearly refers to the future.

    More generally speaking, there are different schools of thought, as the following makes clear:

    "In fact, a great many linguists and philosophers have claimed that counterfactual pattern 3 conditionals can only refer to the past...
    Others ... claim that there are only past and present counterfactual conditionals. However, there is no doubt that future situations too can
    (under certain conditions) be represented as counterfactual by a pattern 3 conditional." (Declerck, Tense and Time in Counterfactual Conditions, 2006)
    However, your question, which I find rather interesting, is really an academic one. The backshifting occurs because of the indirect speech in which the conditional is presented.
     
  8. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, e2efour.
    What conclusion?
    The content of this thesis is just an excerpt from the book I mentioned in #3. According to that book, there are three patterns concerning my question:
    1. Past / pre-present P-situation + post-present Q-situation
    2. Extended present P-situation + post-present Q-situation
    3. Post-present P-situation + post-present Q-situation
    Which pattern do you think fits my OP example?
     
  9. e2efour

    e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 76)
    UK English
    I suggested what his actual thoughts were, which clearly do not refer to the past.
    They are the same as Hermione said in #2 and can be expressed in a type 2 counterfactual conditional.
     
  10. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you again. I don't know how you could tell it is indirect speech. To me, indirect speech must start with "someone said". Past narrative is not the same as indirect speech. So I still think it should be one of the patterns I cited in #8. Sorry.
     
  11. e2efour

    e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 76)
    UK English
    How can Had the choice been his be direct speech (i.e. what he said)?

    It is called "free indirect speech". This requires no reporting verb and uses backshifted verbs.
    It is the speech (or here thoughts) used in narratives.

    Here is an example (the part in italics):
    He was arrested by the police. If he told them the truth, he would go to prison.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
  12. Barque Senior Member

    India
    Tamil
    I haven't followed your #8 and I don't know many of the grammatical terms used in this thread but doesn't the answer depend on context?

    Was Joffrey's wedding feast in the past or is it in the future or was it going on at that time?

    I think it's either the past or the present, because if it had been the future, I think the writer is more likely to have used "...she would sit beside him..." but that's just my opinion and doesn't rule out the possibility that it could be the future.

    Since you're reading the book you probably know when Joffrey's wedding feast was, so you have the answer to your question there.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
  13. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you again, e2efour.
    Then how do we differentiate between free reported speech and past narrative in a novel?
    As far as I know, in free reported speech we need to backshift tenses, while in past narrative we don’t do so (otherwise there would be no 3rd conditional in the narrative in a novel written in past tense).
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
  14. e2efour

    e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 76)
    UK English
    I don't think you can always distinguish free indirect speech and past narrative (you can easily look it up on Google). But that doesn't matter from the point of view of the grammar.
    If you read in a story If he caught the next train, he would be in time for the meeting, it is obvious that it is not direct speech, which could be If I catch (or even If I caught).

    You can either put yourself in the position of the character here and use the present tense or read the sentence as part of a past tense narrative (with backshifting and third person pronouns, for example).
    Whether the temporal reference is past, present or future depends on your point of view, i.e. whether you are living the life of the character or whether you are looking back to what has happened.

    I don't think I am saying anything very important here, although I suspect that most conditional clauses are normally in direct speech form.
     
  15. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, e2efour. So I can think of the topic sentence as either the backshifting of a 2nd conditional (live the life of the character) or a third conditional with a future reference (look back to what has happened)?:confused:
     
  16. e2efour

    e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 76)
    UK English
    Something like that. :)
    When reading a novel, you can picture the text through the eyes of the narrator (or author) or from the point of view of the characters at the time.
     
  17. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thanks. It seems we have taken a great detour. So my question in the OP still stands. If I want to stick to the 3rd conditional reading of the topic sentence, can we know what time "Had the choice been his" refers to?
     
  18. Barque Senior Member

    India
    Tamil
    I don't want to labour the point, but doesn't that depend on the writer's intention rather than whether you want to "stick to the 3rd conditional reading"?
    And the writer's intention can be gauged from when Joffrey's weddig feast happened (as I said above).
     

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