he'll probably have acquired an accent

cointi

Senior Member
Polish
Hi,

If Paul's been to Australia, he'll probably have acquired an accent.

No context here, it's a sentence from Grammar and Vocabulary for Cambridge Advanced and Proficiency.

What meaning does the Future Perfect convey here? I am aware that it is a false conditional. My interpretation is either "he will sooner or later acquire an accent" or "must have already acquired an accent". Why not simply say then "If Paul's been to Australia, he'll probably acquire an accent" or "If Paul's been to Australia, he must have acquired an accent".
 
  • DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    You need the future perfect tense there:
    If Paul's been to Australia, he'll probably have acquired an accent.

    "If Paul's been to Australia, he'll probably acquire an accent".
    This doesn't work because the future tense "he'll acquire" means that he'll acquire it in the future (i.e. after he gets back) which doesn't make much sense logically.

    "If Paul's been to Australia, he must have acquired an accent".
    This doesn't work either, because there's no obvious reason for the "must". In other words, not everyone who goes to Australia acquires an accent.
     

    cointi

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Oh, it makes perfect sense now. Thank you, DonnyB, for the excellent answer. Does the sentence suggest that he has come back, though?
     

    cointi

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Oh, this is so exciting!

    How do we then know a real conditional from a fake conditional here? I'll illustrate:

    If you had known it would hurt so badly, would you have done it (real conditional)
    If you knew it was going to hurt so badly, why did you do it? (fake conditional)

    But with this sentence....

    If Paul's been to Australia (...) - and I have no idea whether he has (real conditional)
    If Paul's been to Australia (...) - and I know he has (fake conditional)



    I would argue that it is the second clause that expresses an assumption ( I assume he has an accent, but I cannot be sure) and therefore the Future Perfect:

    Oh, you will have met already at Tom's birthday party, didn't you? (assumption)
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    With a genuine conditional, the if-clause has to come true first, for the result to happen.

    So, sticking to the original example (so that we don't drift off-topic here ;)),
    "If Paul's been to Australia, he'll probably have acquired an accent".

    Here, Paul's Australian accent depends on his going to Australia first. If it's not true (i.e Paul has not been to Australia, then he won't have the accent). :)
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    "If he has been to Australia" is not a false conditional. A false conditional would be "If he had been to Australia", and then it would need "he would probably have acquired..."
    In the original, the speaker is not sure whether Paul has been there, but thinks it possible, perhaps even likely. This is what you are calling "fake conditional" (I don't think that's an accepted technical term, though).
    The next part is speculative, certainly with, but even without "probably". "He will have acquired" is a little less certain than "he must have acquired", but the meaning is similar. It's a kind of prediction based on the premise that the condition is true. It does not mean "he will sooner or later acquire". The implication is that this "sooner or later" is already in the past. If Paul has been to Australia for a long enough period of time to acquire an accent, then he probably will have done so.
     

    cointi

    Senior Member
    Polish
    But say we know it for a fact that he has been to Australia, but haven't spoken to him since he left and therefore are unsure whether he has acquired an accent (but we assume he probably has). Would If Paul's been to Australia, he'll probably have acquired an accent be also okay then?

    (cross-posted with Edinburgher)
     

    cointi

    Senior Member
    Polish
    There is some confusion about what I call a fake conditional (a term I have seen in a few grammar books). I'll provide more examples.

    If you had known it would hurt so badly, would you have done it (real conditional)
    If you knew it was going to hurt so badly, why did you do it? (fake conditional)

    If you don't like butter, why do you keep eating it? (fake conditional)
    If he didn't have any money, why did he take a loan? (fake conditional)


    " A false conditional would be "If he had been to Australia", and then it would need "he would probably have acquired..."
    Well, the way I see it, this is a REAL conditonal (what some people call 3rd conditional)

    I do understand the meaning of the original sentence now thanks to your explanation. (edit - fo course I meant both of you, gentlemen).

    Yes, it's OK to use a conditional even when we know the condition is true.

    So in the original sentence there is no way of knowing whether the speaker knows if the condition is true or not. In other fake vs real conditional sentences it shows in the grammar.
     
    Last edited:

    cointi

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Of course it is, grassy, I stand corrected. Thank you for pointing it out.

    For the future users:

    commenting on the present
    will + present infinitive

    [the doorbell rings] That will be Jenny! = I am quite sure it's Jenny.

    commenting the past
    will + perfect infinitive


    A: I saw you with a girl yesterday.
    B: That will have been my friend, Carol.



    But I would still be happy to know if the original sentence can be interpreted as a fake conditional (i.e. I'm certain he was there) and how to know what the speaker actually meant.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Without more context, we can't tell whether the speaker knew (or was almost sure) that Paul had been to Australia.
    It is possible that he doubted it.

    Jane: Paul has been to Australia.
    John: No, I don't think so.
    Jane: Yes, I'm sure he has.
    John: Well, look. If he has been there, then he will have acquired an accent. So let's invite him to our party and listen to him talking. We'll also see whether he still drinks beer or has acquired a taste for lager.
     

    cointi

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Thank you so much for the explanation and the dialogue. It couldn't have been clearer. Also, he has turned teetotaler, sorry.
     
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