he <would know> a lot about warfare

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JJXR

Senior Member
Russian
Hello to all,

Thanks for reading my post.


Sample sentence:

Bill: "Do you know that John fought in Vietnam for three years?"

Bob: "Now that you've told me, I do. If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare."

Bill: "He does know a lot! He's already told me about how to operate a machine gun!"

Question:

Is it correct that "he would know a lot" means "he presumably knows a lot" in Bob's sentence?

Does the following interpretation of Bob's sentence make sense:

"Given that he fought in Vietnam for three years, I predict that it is true that he knows a lot about warfare."


Thanks a lot for any comments, corrections or suggestions!

Regards,
JJXR
 
  • Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    {...}
    Bob: "Now that you've told me, I do. If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare."
    {...}
    "Given that he fought in Vietnam for three years, I predict that it is true that he knows a lot about warfare."
    {...}
    Yes that seems an accurate paraphrase.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    From the context, this is the only possible meaning, and "would know" is within the range of expressions someone might use, but I think "must know" is a better fit here. "Would know" gives the impression that Bob doubts Bill's assertion.
     

    Vronsky

    Senior Member
    Russian - Russia
    Bob: "Now that you've told me, I do. If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare."
    To me it sounds like Conditional 2 (hypothethic).
    "If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare [but he knows nothing!]."

    To make it Conditional 1 (real), I would use will or should instead of would.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    To me it sounds like Conditional 2 (hypothethic).
    "If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare [but he knows nothing!]."

    To make it Conditional 1 (real), I would use will or should instead of would.
    It cannot possibly be a hypothetical (type 2) conditional because it is clear from the context they are discussing a real situation (or. at least. a real possibility. When determining the meaning, always look at the context first.

    You are right that "will know" is the "neutral" verb form to use in a real conditional where the effect is in the present, saying that it the if-clause is true than the main clause is true as well, but this is rather a bland thing to say, and gives no hint of the speaker's own views. By changing the main clause verb form, the speaker can convey a lot more.

    As I said earlier, "would" suggests the speaker is rather doubtful of the truth of the if-clause, and invites the other person to say more about the person's knowledge of warfare. "Must" also invites a reply, but this time accepting what the other person has said and encouraging the other person to talk more about it.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    To me it sounds like Conditional 2 (hypothethic).
    "If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare [but he knows nothing!]."

    To make it Conditional 1 (real), I would use will or should instead of would.
    There is no implication of "he knows nothing". "would" here is the simple past of "will".

    If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare." :tick: past

    If, as you say, he fights in Vietnam he will know a lot about warfare." :tick: present
     

    Vronsky

    Senior Member
    Russian - Russia
    I see. To make it a hypothetical conditional sentence, it should be Conditional 3: "if he had fought ..."
    Many thanks.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    According the book "Conditionals: a Comprehensive Empirical Analysis" by Renaat Declerck, the conditional simple "would know" in the dialog below can be interpreted as counterfactual, i.e. the implication is that John doesn't know a lot about warfare.

    Bill: "Do you know that John fought in Vietnam for three years?"

    Bob: "If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare."


    The hearer (Bill in this case) will conclude from what Bob has just said that "he fought in Vietnam for three years" is false. In the aforementioned book, they call this type of conditional a counterfactual indirect inferential.

    The two examples below are from that same book:

    A. If (as you say) he really fought in Vietnam for three years, he would {know / have known} a lot about warfare. (inferred #P: he did not fight in Vietnam for three years)

    B. But Superman wouldn’t be Superman if he didn’t solve that problem too. (inferred #P: Superman did solve that problem)


    This is what they say in the book in relation to sentences such as A and B:

    Sentences like these represent a type of indirect inferential: from the fact that Q is counterfactual we deduce that P must also be counterfactual (although its verb form does not represent it as such: for the sake of the argument, the speaker purports to treat P as closed, but then she makes it clear that this interpretation must be reconsidered.)

    Q is the main clause of a conditional sentence.

    P is the if-clause of a conditional sentence.
    ___________________________________________

    If the book is correct, the above reasoning can also apply to the examples in post #31 and post #38 in another thread.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    from the fact that Q is counterfactual we deduce that P must also be counterfactual
    That may be true, but first we need to be sure that Q really is counterfactual. We cannot deduce this only from that fact that "he would know" is being used; we need independent evidence that John does in fact not know much about warfare. In the OP, Bob is making a supposition, not a prediction.

    Of course if Bob had said "he would have known", we could deduce that Bob believes that John doesn't know much about warfare. But that is incompatible with the rest of what Bob is saying: Bob cannot first claim that he knows that John fought in Vietnam for three years, and then in the same sentence attempt to cast doubt on it.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for your responses, Uncle Jack and Edinburgher.
    Do you have a question @JJXR?
    My point is that Vronsky's interpretation is not out of the question:
    "If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare [but he knows nothing!]."
    For example, let's consider the following dialog:

    Bill: "Do you know that John fought in Vietnam for three years?"

    Bob: "If, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare."

    Bill: "He must have lied to me. I thought he was an honest person."


    Bill thinks to himself: "Since Bob doubts the fact that John fought in Vietnam for three years, I conclude that John cannot have fought in Vietnam for three years. He must have lied to me. I'm more inclined to trust Bob than John."
    That may be true, but first we need to be sure that Q really is counterfactual. We cannot deduce this only from that fact that "he would know" is being used; we need independent evidence that John does in fact not know much about warfare. In the OP, Bob is making a supposition, not a prediction.
    In my new example above, the fact that Bob is in doubt makes Bill come to the conclusion that John cannot have fought in Vietnam for three years. The independent evidence is the fact that Bob doubts Bill's assertion.
    Of course if Bob had said "he would have known", we could deduce that Bob believes that John doesn't know much about warfare.
    In the case of the conditional perfect "would have known", it is not clear either whether what is being expressed should be read counterfactually or not.

    Here's an example from another thread:
    (2) If he had the directions [then], he would have arrived on time. Either he had the directions or he didn't. If he did, I deduce that he arrived on time. If he didn't, I deduce that he didn't arrive on time.
    By analogy with what Loob wrote, we can write:

    If he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would have known a lot about warfare.

    Either he fought in Vietnam for three years or he didn't. If he did, I deduce that he knew (and apparently still knows) a lot about warfare. If he didn't, I deduce that he didn't (and apparently still doesn't) know a lot about warfare.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Either he fought in Vietnam for three years or he didn't. If he did, I deduce that he knew (and apparently still knows) a lot about warfare. If he didn't, I deduce that he didn't (and apparently still doesn't) know a lot about warfare.
    Yes, but the deductions are going in the wrong direction. We don't know whether he fought for three years, and we want to deduce whether he did or he didn't. The only thing we can base that deduction on is evidence of his knowledge of warfare.

    In the version of the conversation that uses "he would have known", we already know that he knows very little, and we can therefore deduce that he did not fight for three years. In the version of the conversation that uses "he would know", we are only speculating, and we might agree to set up some kind of test to discover how much he knows; we are not (yet) able to deduce anything before we know the test results.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the response, Edinburgher.

    I see what you mean.

    How about the following scenario: John, Bob and Peter are home alone. Bill, their father, comes home. The dialog below takes place between Bob and Bill.

    Bob: "John has stabbed Peter."

    Bill: "If, as you say, John has stabbed Peter, there would have been blood all over the place. Go to your room, Bob."


    In this scenario, does the combination of the present perfect "has stabbed" and the conditional perfect "would have been" work to give the following interpretation: "Since there's no blood all over the place, I deduce that John cannot have stabbed Peter."
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    "Would have been" is unlikely in that conversation, because they are all there in the present. He would instead say "there would be blood...", but the interpretation is the same. We assume from the nature of the conversation that there is no evidence of blood, and that therefore Bob was fibbing.

    (Bill would also say "If John stabbed (not has stabbed) Peter", even though Bob (correctly) said "has stabbed".)
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Do the tenses in bold work in the dialog below:
    John, Bob and Peter are home alone. Bill, their father, comes home. The dialog below takes place between Bob and Bill.
    Bob: "John has stabbed Peter."

    Bill: "If, as you say, John
    has stabbed Peter, how come there is no blood all over the place? Go to your room, Bob."
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the response, Edinburgher.
    John, Bob and Peter are home alone. Bill, their father, comes home. The dialog below takes place between Bob and Bill.
    If I were to change the quoted scenario to the following one:

    Bob is playing outside. John and Peter are at home. John calls Bob and says that he (John) has stabbed Peter. Bill, their father, is also at home. He knows that no one has stabbed anyone and that there is no blood all over the place. Bill goes out and comes up to Bob. The dialog below takes place between them.

    Bob: "John has stabbed Peter."

    Bill: "If, as you say, John stabbed Peter, there would have been blood all over the place. The supper is ready, Bob. Go home."


    In this case, only Bill knows for sure that there is no blood all over the place. Bob doesn't know that. Bill uses the conditional perfect "would have been" so Bob can deduce that since there's no blood all over the place, John cannot have stabbed Peter.

    Does this work? I think it does because the logic here is much the same as in the example about warfare:
    If he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would have known a lot about warfare.
    Since he doesn't know a lot about warfare, he cannot have fought in Vietnam for three years.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Does this work? I think it does because the logic here is much the same as in the example about warfare:
    Not really. Bill was in the house only seconds ago, and this isn't enough to place the absence of blood sufficiently far into the past to justify "would have been". "Would be" would be used.
    Therefore the warfare example as quoted in #19 doesn't really work either.

    If he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would have known a lot about warfare. :confused:
    If he had fought in Vietnam for three years, he would have known a lot about warfare. :tick: (We tested his knowledge and found it lacking, and we deduce that he did not fight in Vietnam for 3 years.)
    If he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would know a lot about warfare. :tick: (We believe the assertion that he fought in Vietnam for 3 years, because we have no reason to doubt it, and deduce that he must be quite knowledgeable about warfare. We look forward to meeting him because we want to learn about warfare.) We could change "would" to "must" without changing the meaning.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the response, Edinburgher.
    Bob is playing outside. John and Peter are at home. John calls Bob and says that he (John) has stabbed Peter. Bill, their father, is also at home. He knows that no one has stabbed anyone and that there is no blood all over the place. Bill goes out and comes up to Bob. The dialog below takes place between them.

    Bob: "John has stabbed Peter."

    Bill: "If, as you say, John stabbed Peter, there would have been blood all over the place. The supper is ready, Bob. Go home."
    Not really. Bill was in the house only seconds ago, and this isn't enough to place the absence of blood sufficiently far into the past to justify "would have been". "Would be" would be used.
    But then, if "would be" is used, this is how Bob would understand Bill's message:

    On the assumption that John did stab Peter, there must be blood all over the place.

    Is my understanding correct?
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Is my understanding correct?
    No. This conversation is clearly about the present, not the past. It should still be understood as "Because there is no blood, John did not stab Peter". In other words, when Bill says "there would be" he means "but there isn't" in exactly the same way as when, if he had said "there would have been", he would have meant "but there wasn't".
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the response, Edinburgher.
    In other words, when Bill says "there would be" he means "but there isn't"
    It means that for Bill because he was in the house seconds ago and saw no blood there. The absence of blood is independent evidence in this case.

    How could Bob understand that Bill means "but there isn't" by "there would be" if Bob can see no independent evidence to support the countefactuality of "would be"? Bob has no way of knowing whether or not there's blood in the house because he's outside.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I don't think Bill would express it like this at all. The use of "would be" (or "would have been") to express something not being true and thereby inferring that something else isn't true relies on both people knowing that the "would be" thing is not true. Bill knows there isn't blood, but Bob does not, and it does not appear from your little scenario that Bill thinks that Bob knows there isn't any blood.

    Edinburgher is of course correct that "would have been" is wrong; where would the blood have gone to between then and now? If there ever had been blood, it would still be there, and there is no need to refer to the blood in the past.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for the response, Uncle Jack.

    Do you mean this:
    The use of "would be" (or "would have been") to express something not being true and thereby inferring that something else isn't true relies on both people knowing that the "would be" (or "would have been") thing is not true.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thanks for the response, Uncle Jack.

    Do you mean this:
    Sort of but (a), as has been said "would have been" does not fit your context and (b), this type of usage is far more common when the supposed result is in the present; I am not entirely sure that "would have" + past participle carries the same meaning.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    How could Bob understand that Bill means "but there isn't" by "there would be" if Bob can see no independent evidence to support the countefactuality of "would be"? Bob has no way of knowing whether or not there's blood in the house because he's outside.
    But Bob knows that Bill was in the house. Therefore Bob knows that Bill knows whether or not there is blood. That's why it should be clear to Bob that Bill's "there would be blood" is a counterfactual statement.

    If Bob did not see Bill coming out of the house, and maybe thought that Bill had been out for a walk and had just returned and is about to enter the house, then you'd be right. Then Bill's "there would be" could be interpreted (by Bob) as "Let's go inside and see".
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks for your responses, Uncle Jack and Edinburgher.

    I think I now understand how a counterfactual indirect inferential works. What Uncle Jack said in post #24 is the fact I overlooked:
    The use of "would be" (or "would have been") to express something not being true and thereby inferring that something else isn't true relies on both people knowing that the "would be" thing is not true.
     
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