If (as you say) he really fought in Vietnam for three years, he would have known a lot about warfare.

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
1. If (as you say) he really fought in Vietnam for three years, he would have known a lot about warfare.

Hi. This sentence is from a linguistic book, which is given as an example of a type of conditional called “indirect inferential conditional”. Unfortunately, there’s no context.

The book suggests that the example should be understood as “The speaker knows he didn’t know a lot about warfare, and uses this knowledge to argue that he didn’t really fight in Vietnam for three years”.

My question is
Can the example also mean “the speaker knows he knew a lot about warfare so the speaker argues that he may have fought in Vietnam for three years.”?

Thank you.
 
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    It's possible. I have invented a very specific scenario below. In order for the tenses to work, X would have to be dead (or similarly off the scene). In most normal contexts, the assumption would be as your textbook says.

    A: X just died. He wrote a book about warfare in Vietnam. I know he supposedly 'fought' in Vietnam for three years but I find it hard to believe he knew a lot about warfare, he was only a cook in the army.
    B: if, as you say, he fought in Vietnam for three years, he would have known a lot about warfare (even if he was only a cook).
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    If he fought in Vietnam for three years he probably knew a lot about dying, and possibly a lot about killing. But warfare is not about dying or killing; it is about strategy and politics. Silly question.

    I cannot imagine that I managed to speak English for 69+ years and never heard of “indirect inferential conditional”. My bad.

    Who thinks this is necessary to learn English? I certainly don't. The article on the subject does not convince me otherwise. In any case the example does not seem to fit the definition I found online.

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378216611001974

    Inferential conditional sentences represent a blueprint of someone's reasoning process from premise to conclusion.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Can the example also mean “the speaker knows he knew a lot about warfare so the speaker argues that he may have fought in Vietnam for three years.”?
    What on earth would be the point in saying this? The sentence cannot be used to argue that he did fight in Vietnam, however good his knowledge of warfare. Nor is it any use in refuting an argument that he cannot have fought in Vietnam.

    The only ways you can use a conditional sentence to frame an argument, irrespective of verb tenses, are:
    1. The if-clause is true therefore the main clause must be true
    2. The main clause is false therefore the if-clause must be false.
    Chez has come up with a plausible example of (1) and your book says the sentence is an example of (2).

    Of course, most conditional sentences aren't used for making this type of argument at all.
     
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