I thought that he would leave/will leave for Japan tomorrow.

Hiden

Senior Member
japanese
I think (1) works:

(1) I thought that he would leave for Japan tomorrow.​

How does (2) sound? If the speaker construes what he/she thought as still true or relevant, does it work?

(2) I thought that he will leave for Japan tomorrow.​
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    (2) doesn't work. There are at least two ways of thinking about the expression of thoughts in English. One is to regard them as much the same as speech, and to think of "think" as a reporting verb. Since "I thought" uses the past tense, the thought itself should be backshifted:
    Original thought at some time in the past: "He will leave for Japan on Tuesday."​
    Reported thought on Monday: "I thought he would leave for Japan tomorrow."​
    With reported speech, it is possible not to backshift if the thing is still true and you want to emphasise this. So, for example:
    Tom (to Mary, at some time in the past): "I will leave for Japan on Tuesday."​
    Mary (to Peter, on Monday): "Tom said he would leave for Japan tomorrow."​
    Mary (to Peter, on Monday): "Tom said he will leave for Japan tomorrow."​
    However, this tends not work with thoughts. If you still think that he will leave for Japan tomorrow, then why would you use "I thought" rather than "I think"?
    I think that he will leave for Japan tomorrow.​
    The obvious inference in sentence (1) is that you no longer think that he will leave for Japan tomorrow, so only the future in the past tense ("would leave", for example) works.

    There is another way of looking at thoughts, and that is to just think of them as any other subordinate clause. If the parent verb is in the past tense, if the subordinate clause refers to the same time, use the past tense; if it refers to a previous time then use the past perfect, and if it refers to a later time then use the future in the past tense. There may be exceptions to these rules, but they work in most situations.
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    (2) doesn't work. There are at least two ways of thinking about the expression of thoughts in English. One is to regard them as much the same as speech, and to think of "think" as a reporting verb. Since "I thought" uses the past tense, the thought itself should be backshifted:
    Original thought at some time in the past: "He will leave for Japan on Tuesday."​
    Reported thought on Monday: "I thought he would leave for Japan tomorrow."​
    With reported speech, it is possible not to backshift if the thing is still true and you want to emphasise this. So, for example:
    Tom (to Mary, at some time in the past): "I will leave for Japan on Tuesday."​
    Mary (to Peter, on Monday): "Tom said he would leave for Japan tomorrow."​
    Mary (to Peter, on Monday): "Tom said he will leave for Japan tomorrow."​
    However, this tends not work with thoughts. If you still think that he will leave for Japan tomorrow, then why would you use "I thought" rather than "I think"?
    I think that he will leave for Japan tomorrow.​
    The obvious inference in sentence (1) is that you no longer think that he will leave for Japan tomorrow, so only the future in the past tense ("would leave", for example) works.

    There is another way of looking at thoughts, and that is to just think of them as any other subordinate clause. If the parent verb is in the past tense, if the subordinate clause refers to the same time, use the past tense; if it refers to a previous time then use the past perfect, and if it refers to a later time then use the future in the past tense. There may be exceptions to these rules, but they work in most situations.
    Thank you for your insightful feedback. I have learned something new. "I thought" itself suggests that the speaker construes what he/she thought in the past as no longer true. Thus, (2) does not work. Could you correct me if I'm wrong.
     
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    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    I think I have discovered the connection between Reported Speech/Direct Speech, and Reported Thought/ Direct Thought: I thought that it might rain; I told myself that it might rain. I thought "it might rain". I said to myself "it might rain."
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think I have discovered the connection between Reported Speech/Direct Speech, and Reported Thought/ Direct Thought: I thought it might rain; I told myself it might rain. I thought " it might rain". I said to myself " it might rain."
    Yes, you can do that, but "might" is a poor verb to choose since it doesn't get backshifted. "May" would provide a better illustration, and it is also usual to begin with the original, direct speech version:
    I said to myself, "It may rain."​
    I told myself it might rain.​
    I thought, "It may rain."​
    I thought it might rain.​
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Yes, you can do that, but "might" is a poor verb to choose since it doesn't get backshifted. "May" would provide a better illustration, and it is also usual to begin with the original, direct speech version:
    I said to myself, "It may rain."​
    I told myself it might rain.​
    I thought, "It may rain."​
    I thought it might rain.​
    Thank you. That really helps. :thank you: 😃
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    If you infer that your thinking has been updated, can I say 'I had thought that he will leave tomorrow'?
     
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    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If you infer that your thinking has been updated, can I say 'I had thought that he will leave tomorrow'?
    No. You cannot use "had" with "tomorrow". The use of "had" puts everything into the past including (a) the thought, (b) the leaving, and (c) the time period thought about.

    I had thought that he would leave the next day. :tick:

    EDIT - In the light of a later answer by Uncle Jack, I am reconsidering.
     
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    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    No. You cannot use "had" with "tomorrow". The use of "had" puts everything into the past including (a) the thought, (b) the leaving, and (c) the time period thought about.

    I had thought that he would leave the next day. :tick:
    Thank you for your answer. That helps. :thank you:
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    No. You cannot use "had" with "tomorrow". The use of "had" puts everything into the past including (a) the thought, (b) the leaving, and (c) the time period thought about.

    I had thought that he would leave the next day. :tick:
    You can use "tomorrow", if you mean the day after you say this. On Monday, you thought he would leave on Thursday. On Wednesday, you discover that he isn't leaving on Thursday, so you can say "I had thought that he would leave tomorrow". If you express the same thing on Thursday, you would say "I had thought that he would leave today". On Friday, you can even say "I had thought that he would leave yesterday"; the future in the past tense does not indicate whether the action is in the past, present or future in relation to the present.
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    You can use "tomorrow", if you mean the day after you say this. On Monday, you thought he would leave on Thursday. On Wednesday, you discover that he isn't leaving on Thursday, so you can say "I had thought that he would leave tomorrow". If you express the same thing on Thursday, you would say "I had thought that he would leave today". On Friday, you can even say "I had thought that he would leave yesterday"; the future in the past tense does not indicate whether the action is in the past, present or future in relation to the present.
    Thank you for your answer. I like your explanation. I will save it for my record and further study.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You can use "tomorrow", if you mean the day after you say this. On Monday, you thought he would leave on Thursday. On Wednesday, you discover that he isn't leaving on Thursday, so you can say "I had thought that he would leave tomorrow". If you express the same thing on Thursday, you would say "I had thought that he would leave today". On Friday, you can even say "I had thought that he would leave yesterday"; the future in the past tense does not indicate whether the action is in the past, present or future in relation to the present.
    I am reconsidering my answer on the basis of having read this. I can't fault the logic and yet somehow I feel that "I had thought he would leave tomorrow" is unusual and/or unidiomatic.

    The best reason I can come up with is that I would not expect it in real life. Here is something I might expect to hear:

    - John's leaving today
    - Yes I heard. Mind you, until Mary told me, I'd thought he was leaving tomorrow.

    Uncle Jack, accepting the theoretical correctness of what you say, can you imagine an actual conversation that would require the phrase, "I had thought that he would leave tomorrow"?
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    I am reconsidering my answer on the basis of having read this. I can't fault the logic and yet somehow I feel that "I had thought he would leave tomorrow" is unusual and/or unidiomatic.

    The best reason I can come up with is that I would not expect it in real life. Here is something I might expect to hear:

    - John's leaving today
    - Yes I heard. Mind you, until Mary told me, I'd thought he was leaving tomorrow.

    Uncle Jack, accepting the theoretical correctness of what you say, can you imagine an actual conversation that would require the phrase, "I had thought that he would leave tomorrow"?
    Thank you for clarification. I have learned something new.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I agree that "would be leaving" or "was leaving" are more likely than "would leave", particularly when the leaving is still in the future, but I don't think that "would leave" is impossible.

    What is important though is that words like "yesterday", "today" and "tomorrow" are in relation to whenever the person is speaking, whereas expressions like "the next day" are in relation to some other time, such as when the speaker originally had their thought.

    Uncle Jack, accepting the theoretical correctness of what you say, can you imagine an actual conversation that would require the phrase, "I had thought that he would leave tomorrow"?
    It depends a lot on how the topic was introduced. If the speaker was answering the question "When is John leaving?" then of course they will most likely respond with "I (had) thought he was leaving tomorrow". If the sentence was in response to something else, then "would be leaving" or "was going to leave" might be more likely. However, if his leaving was introduced with the simple present tense or the simple future tense, something like "When does John leave?", then I think "I (had) thought that he would leave tomorrow" is possible.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Again, I can see the logic, however, in my experience the normal use of past perfect is to report a past occurrence that is over and done with and contains no futurity.
    It is also used to emphasise a change in the past. This is probably not needed when supposed action is itself in the past, but it might well be used when the action is still in the future:
    I had thought that he would be leaving tomorrow, but yesterday I learned that he was staying till next week.​
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    What follows was the question that sparked this part of the debate.
    If you infer that your thinking has been updated, can I say 'I had thought that he will leave tomorrow'?
    I replied "No" and offered the following alternative:

    I had thought that he would leave the next day.

    Clearly that is correct in terms of grammar and idiom, but it puts everything into the past - quite reasonably I believe.

    ...
    I had thought that he would be leaving tomorrow, but yesterday I learned that he was staying till next week.​
    This seems perfectly natural to me. However I notice that you use "would be leaving tomorrow" rather than "would leave tomorrow".

    I think this difference is crucial and I was already considering it as a possibility. However I have not yet plumbed the depths of why the present continuous seems more natural!
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    This seems perfectly natural to me. However I notice that you use "would be leaving tomorrow" rather than "would leave tomorrow".

    I think this difference is crucial and I was already considering it as a possibility. However I have not yet plumbed the depths of why the present continuous seems more natural!
    We expect that if we are talking about the date of his leaving at all, then it is something planned, and so the usual tense is the present continuous, which gets backshifted to the past continuous. Where we need to make it clear that we are talking about the future in respect of some time in the past, then "would be leaving" may well be clearer than "was leaving", and I suppose that is why I chose it for "would be leaving tomorrow". However, we have such a wide range of ways of talking about the future in the past, and many of us take delight in using different forms of expression, that I am not sure I would rule out any of them.
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    Thank you for your insightful feedback, everyone. I have learned something. I really appreciate your help. 🙏 😃
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    I have something I’d like to confirm.

    When we talk about a “future-in-the-past” event that has not happened yet, we can say (1') but not (2'):

    (1') He said that he will leave for Japan tomorrow. [The speaker knows that he still intends to leave for Japan tomorrow.]​

    (2') I thought that he will leave for Japan tomorrow.​

    In order for (2') to be correct, "will" needs to be replaced with "would".

    Is this assessment correct?
     
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    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    You are right that you can say (1') but not (2'), but that's because (2') makes no sense.

    Speech is tied to the time the words were spoken, so in (1'), you have to use "said" (past tense). If you don't think his plans have changed since then, then you can say "will leave" to emphasise that what he said is still true.

    Thoughts are continuous, so if you still think he will leave for Japan tomorrow, you would use "think" (present tense). Using "thought" (past tense) means that you no longer thing this, or that you are no longer sure, so it makes no sense to use "will leave" to emphasise that the thing is still true.
     

    Hiden

    Senior Member
    japanese
    You are right that you can say (1') but not (2'), but that's because (2') makes no sense.

    Speech is tied to the time the words were spoken, so in (1'), you have to use "said" (past tense). If you don't think his plans have changed since then, then you can say "will leave" to emphasise that what he said is still true.

    Thoughts are continuous, so if you still think he will leave for Japan tomorrow, you would use "think" (present tense). Using "thought" (past tense) means that you no longer thing this, or that you are no longer sure, so it makes no sense to use "will leave" to emphasise that the thing is still true.
    Thank you for always answering my constant questions. I think I understand why (2') is unacceptable. I really appreciate your help. I will save your answer for my records and further study. Again thanks.
     
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