If he <calls><called> me then what should I say

  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    (2) sounds really odd to me. It might be formally correct, if you think it is unlikely that he will call (I would have no problem with "If he were to call me, then what should I say?"), but I really cannot imagine saying it.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    I think we could also come up with some rare cases where #2 actually does point to the past, no?

    Suppose someone might have called and that we're now considering what we would say in the future if it is the case that "he" called in the past. It could be a situation where we are considering different statements to someone but that we need to be careful with which option we choose depending on if this call took place.

    Lawyer: You have to be careful with what you say now. If Frank indeed called you and informed you about 'it' then you could incriminate yourself when you testify.

    Joe: Ok, so if he called me what should I say?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    That doesn't really point to the past. It's still hypothesis and refers to a possible future. As was said above, you think it's unlikely he will call but it's possible that he will (and you want to be prepared if he does).
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    That doesn't really point to the past. It's still hypothesis and refers to a possible future. As was said above, you think it's unlikely he will call but it's possible that he will (and you want to be prepared if he does).
    In Matthias's example, the possible calling is clearly in the past.
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    Read the context again:

    Suppose someone might have called and that we're now considering what we would say in the future if it is the case that "he" called in the past.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Read the dialogue again:

    Lawyer: You have to be careful with what you say now. If Frank indeed called you and informed you about 'it' then you could incriminate yourself when you testify.

    Joe: Ok, so if he called me what should I say?
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Read the dialogue again:
    Ok, I'll give you a different example then (tunaafi is correct in how I intended the other one):

    Jess and Lisa are walking back to Lisa's apartment. Lisa's husband returned home earlier than expected and Lisa's phone was left on the kitchen table where he often sits to work. Lisa is having an affair with a man and has made plans to meet up next weekend but told her husband that this meeting was for work. Her husband has been worrying about this man in the past. The concern is that the husband will see the incoming phone call with caller ID and then ask questions about the upcoming weekend.

    Lisa: I've told my husband there's nothing between us, but he (lover) doesn't understand he can't call me. If my husband sees that he called he'll get really mad. God, I hope he didn't call me.

    Jess: You have to be careful with what you say now.

    Lisa: So if he called me what should I say?

    In other words, the concern is about a possible call in the past and the future statements depend on whether or not that call took place. I think however that the other way of talking about this is simply asking how you would write the sentence in the examples I gave if you don't use the words "if he called".
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    That's not what the dialogue implies at all, regardless of what Mattias said. The lawyer refers to a future possibility. The reply also refers to this future possibility.
    I just wrote another example and my first is really not necessarily the way you see it. It's entirely possible that the client, Joe, doesn't want to entrust the lawyer with the actual fact of whether or not this person actually did call in the past. Instead Joe simply wants to know what he can and cannot say in an interrogation based on whether or not the call took place. So if he called then he should say he was informed, plead guilty and cut a deal. If he didn't call then he can, hypothetically, lie about it and say he wasn't informed (about whatever) and plead ignorance.

    But as I just wrote above: How would you reword the sentence without using "if he called" to give the same information I gave, i.e. the call may have occurred in the past and depending on that we choose different options in the future?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Lisa: I've told my husband there's nothing between us, but he (lover) doesn't understand he can't call me. If my husband sees that he called he'll get really mad. God, I hope he didn't call me.

    Jess: You have to be careful with what you say now.

    Lisa: So if he called me what should I say?


    We're still talking about future possibility, in my view. The lover doesn't understand he can't call her and has called her, from what you say above. Lisa is worried that her husband has noticed the calls (she says: "God, I hope he didn't call me"). I think she'd say: "So if he (the lover) has called me and my husband has noticed/seen the calls what should I say to him (the husband)"?

    This is pure speculation because she doesn't know if the husband has seen the calls but she wants to be prepared if and when he does, as she will need to be 'careful with what she says'.

    Consider the difference between the first, second and third conditionals (conditional types 1, 2 and 3, if you prefer):

    1. So if he calls me what shall I say? Future possibility. I need to know what to say in the event he calls.

    2. So if he called me what should I say? Future possibility (less likely). I need to know what to say in the rather more unlikely event he calls.

    3. So if he had called me what should I have said? Pure hypothesis. He didn't call but I would like to know what you think I should have said if he had.

    The OP suggests a mixed conditional as well ( also fine, as we use 'should' and not just 'shall' when asking for advice) which is akin to the first conditional sentence above: So if he calls me what should I say?
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Ok, I just don't agree with you. It seems to me that you have taken the word "called" and limited its use to a possible future only. If that is not the case then please give an example in which the word is used as a true past tense, i.e. something that did happen in the past.

    See to me the word just follows the rules for other similar words.

    call / called
    fix / fixed
    summon / summoned
    reach / reached

    "He fixed the car."
    "If he fixed the car, why doesn't it start?"
    "If he fixed the car, where should we go?"

    If you want less ambiguity then it would seem that "If he fixes the car, where should we go?" is more clearly about the future possibility of fixing the car. The use of "fixed" to me again could clearly imply that the person talking might not know if the car has been fixed, but if it has been fixed we can go somewhere - where should we go?

    I just find that the omission of "has" in your rewording "If he has called" is quite common. 'If this person did something in the past, then what shall we do in the future' - as opposed to your 'If this person has done something,".

    What am I missing?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "He fixed the car."
    "If he fixed the car, why doesn't it start?"
    "If he fixed the car, where should we go?"

    But here the speaker is assuming that the car was indeed fixed (or knows it was indeed fixed). This isn't therefore hypothesis. 'If' means 'even though' here. The person speaking doesn't understand why the car won't start, given that it was fixed.

    In the case of So if he called me what should I say? The person speaking is asking for advice about what to say in the event the person calls, which can only be in the future. This is hypothesis. 'If' here refers to an unreal or imaginary situation.
     

    Sheikhbutt

    Member
    Pashto
    Ok, I'll give you a different example then (tunaafi is correct in how I intended the other one):

    Jess and Lisa are walking back to Lisa's apartment. Lisa's husband returned home earlier than expected and Lisa's phone was left on the kitchen table where he often sits to work. Lisa is having an affair with a man and has made plans to meet up next weekend but told her husband that this meeting was for work. Her husband has been worrying about this man in the past. The concern is that the husband will see the incoming phone call with caller ID and then ask questions about the upcoming weekend.

    Lisa: I've told my husband there's nothing between us, but he (lover) doesn't understand he can't call me. If my husband sees that he called he'll get really mad. God, I hope he didn't call me.

    Jess: You have to be careful with what you say now.

    Lisa: So if he called me what should I say?

    In other words, the concern is about a possible call in the past and the future statements depend on whether or not that call took place. I think however that the other way of talking about this is simply asking how you would write the sentence in the examples I gave if you don't use the words "if he called".
    I would say:
    If he had called me what should I say?
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    That's not what the dialogue implies at all, regardless of what Mattias said. The lawyer refers to a future possibility. The reply also refers to this future possibility.
    "If he called me, and I'm not saying that he did, what should I say?"

    Do you still insist the the call is in the future?
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    Consider the difference between the first, second and third conditionals (conditional types 1, 2 and 3, if you prefer):
    There are many more patterns than those three (or five, if you count mixed and zero). It's pointless to try to shoe-horn all conditional sentences into one of those five patterns - it can't be done.

    If + past clauses may refer to past accepted, past possible, present counter-factual, future extremely unlikely and future possible situations. The apodosis can be about a number of real, hypothetical and unreal situations in past, present and future time. It's beyond the scope of this thread to examine all these. We can discuss them in fresh threads if you wish.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "If he called me, and I'm not saying that he did, what should I say?"

    Do you still insist the the call is in the future?
    Yes, I insist, because you're asking advice about what to say if he were to call. That can only be in the future.

    There are many more patterns than those three (or five, if you count mixed and zero). It's pointless to try to shoe-horn all conditional sentences into one of those five patterns - it can't be done.

    If + past clauses may refer to past accepted, past possible, present counter-factual, future extremely unlikely and future possible situations. The apodosis can be about a number of real, hypothetical and unreal situations in past, present and future time. It's beyond the scope of this thread to examine all these. We can discuss them in fresh threads if you wish.
    As if I didn't know that. I'm not trying to shoe-horn anything. I stand by what I said. It's up to you to explain why my reasoning is flawed.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Yes, I insist, because you're asking advice about what to say if he were to call. That can only be in the future.
    How is that possible when the sentence also reads "and I'm not saying that he did,"?

    It would seem to me that with your way of thinking the sentence is ambiguous at best,incoherent at worst and incorrect at least. Either "and I'm not saying that he did, " is wrong or the rest of the sentence is.

    So the question that follows is; how can you know that it is the middle part that is incorrect and not the rest?

    It's up to you to explain why my reasoning is flawed.
    "There are many more patterns than those three (or five, if you count mixed and zero)."

    Isn't that the explanation?
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    A: Did John call you from Moscow last week?
    B: I can't remember. It's not important, is it?
    A: It's vital. If he didn't call you, then you can honestly say you didn't hear from him. Remember- they'll check his phone.
    B. Oh! If he called/did call me, then what should I say?
    A: Well, you can't claim he didn't call you if they can prove he did.You'll just have to say that no mention was made of the deal.


    A and B are talking about a past-time call - there is explicit mention of 'last week'.
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If he did call me what should I say?

    This is effectively looking at the past. If Mattias had written If he did call me what should I say? (or If he really called me) I would have understood it the way you do, not If he were to call.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    It seems you're in a minority here London. I actually think that the burden of proof is on you at this point.

    tunaafi provided yet another example. How is that example not as he describes it?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    It seems you're in a minority here London. I actually think that the burden of proof is on you at this point.

    tunaafi provided yet another example. How is that example not as he describes it?
    I replied to tunaafi. If you read my answer you will see what I said, the reasons I said what I did.

    And by the way, this isn't a competition, as you seem to think from your comment, so I'm bowing out of this thread now.
     

    MattiasNYC

    Senior Member
    Swedish
    Sorry to read that you think I think this is a competition; I don't think it is.

    Read this thread:

    If he missed the train, he will be late [Mixed conditional, type 2 + 1 and 1+ 3]

    One way of dealing with language is looking at the logical construction of sentences, and I think you haven't demonstrated why you think your interpretation is correct from that logical standpoint. The only reason I said that the burden of proof is on you is because anyone can say "This is how it is" without then proving it. You seem to have only restated that the words mean what you say because that's what the sentence says (or vice versa) which appears to be a circular argument. Simply saying something is the case is easy.

    The other way of dealing with meaning is to look at how people actually use language - which I've learned here on this forum - and that's why I pointed out that you're in a minority. It wasn't to make the point that this is a competition, it's exactly to make the point that was made to me in a thread long ago that if people end up using language a certain way then in a sense that usage is correct.

    Now, if you do read that thread the point is made that these types of sentences are sometimes difficult to decipher while isolated, but when put in context they're far less ambiguous. Similarly to the sentence in that thread, "If he missed the train he will be late", the sentences in some of the examples in this thread provided that context, for example "and I'm not saying that he did". That context makes it clear what the sentence refers to.

    So while I know you don't really care and have bowed out of this discussion at least I feel comfortable in my interpretation of the sample sentences in this thread.
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    If he called me/if he were to call me both mean exactly the same thing to me and I could happily use either.:)
    They can mean the same:

    If he called me tomorrow, I'd tell him where to go. :tick:
    If he were to call me tomorrow, I'd tell him where to go.:tick:


    They do not mean the same in a past-time situation. Only 'called' is possible:

    If he called me yesterday, what should I say when the police ask me about it tomorrow? :tick:
    If he were to call me yesterday, what should I say when the police ask me about it tomorrow?:cross:
     
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    Sheikhbutt

    Member
    Pashto
    They can mean the same:

    If he called me tomorrow, I'd tell him where to go. :tick:
    If he were to call me tomorrow, I'd tell him where to go.:tick:


    They do not mean the same in a past-time situation. Only 'called' is possible:

    If he called me yesterday, what should I say when the police ask me about it tomorrow? :tick:
    If he were to me yesterday, what should I say
    If he called me yesterday, what should I say when the police ask me about it tomorrow?
    I think it would apply when you don't have phone and you are not sure whether the person called you or not.
     
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    Sheikhbutt

    Member
    Pashto
    Or, as noted above, if he did call you and you don't want to admit it.
    RM1(SS), apart from the above question, do you think my above sentence is grammatically correct :

    "I think it would apply when you don't have the phone and you are not sure whether the person called you or not"

    Or Should it be replaced like :

    "I think it would apply when you didn't have the phone and you were not sure whether the person had called you or not."
     
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