If it was a vessel..., the change in direction would have...

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thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
The fragment did not pass by the formation, but executed a thirty-degree turn, and, without slowing down, sped straight toward Infinite Frontier. In the roughly two seconds it took to cover that distance, the computer actually dropped its alert from level two back to level three, concluding that the fragment wasn’t actually a physical object due to the fact that its motion was impossible under aerospace mechanics. At twice the third cosmic velocity, executing a sharp turn without a drop in speed was like slamming into an iron wall. If it was a vessel containing a metal block, the change in direction would have exerted such force as to flatten that metal block into a thin film. So the fragment had to be an illusion.

Excerpt From
The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth's Past)
Cixin Liu
This material may be protected by copyright.

Hi. How should I parse the underlined sentence? Can I understand it as an open past conditional — we don’t know whether or not the force was exerted or whether or not it was a vessel...? But this meaning seems unlikely because according to aerospace mechanics, the exertion definitely happens if the sharp turn is taken.
So is “was” a substitute for “had been” here, which is a standard type 3 conditional, meaning the fragment can’t have been a vessel but just an illusion?
Thank you for shedding any light.
 
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    So is “was” a substitute for “had been” here, which is a standard type 3 conditional, meaning the fragment can’t have been a vessel but just an illusion?
    Yes.
    The following sentence "So the fragment had to be an illusion." suggests to me that the sentence you are asking about might be indirect speech, quoting the computer's thoughts.
    I would not call this an error: I think this variant on the type 3 conditional is quite common. (I am tempted to call it a "tense simplification" but others have objected to that term in the past!)
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish/AE
    The fragment did not pass by the formation, but executed a thirty-degree turn, and, without slowing down, sped straight toward Infinite Frontier. In the roughly two seconds it took to cover that distance, the computer actually dropped its alert from level two back to level three, concluding that the fragment wasn’t actually a physical object due to the fact that its motion was impossible under aerospace mechanics. At twice the third cosmic velocity, executing a sharp turn without a drop in speed was like slamming into an iron wall. If it was a vessel containing a metal block, the change in direction would have exerted such force as to flatten that metal block into a thin film. So the fragment had to be an illusion.

    Excerpt From
    The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth's Past)
    Cixin Liu
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    Hi. How should I parse the underlined sentence? Can I understand it as an open past conditional — we don’t know whether or not the force was exerted or whether or not it was a vessel...? But this meaning seems unlikely because according to aerospace mechanics, the exertion definitely happens if the sharp turn is taken.
    So is “was” a substitute for “had been” here, which is a standard type 3 conditional, meaning the fragment can’t have been a vessel but just an illusion?
    Thank you for shedding any light.
    If it was a vessel ...., the change in direction would exert ....
    Without any context, "would exert" suggests that the time reference excludes the past

    If it was a vessel ..., the change in direction would have exerted ...
    Without any context, the time reference of "would have exerted" applies to the past (and excludes the present-future)

    If it was a vessel ..., the change in direction would exert ....
    In context (i.e., the context provided by the overall text), the time reference (past, present, future) becomes clear.

    Modal would deals with epistemic modality (possibility, deduction, etc.). Since would lacks tense, the time reference for would, and therefore the sentence in which would appears, is provided by other grammatical features (i.e. auxiliary have + past participle) or by pragmatics (context). Language/communication isn't just about grammar/conditional patterns.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think the author meant it as a type 2 hypothetical if-clause with a supposed effect in the past. This would be valid because the vessel, whatever it is, presumably still is whatever it is, allowing a present/timeless if-clause, but the turn took place in the past so a conditional perfect main clause is needed.

    Note that the sentence says nothing about whether or not it was a vessel, but whether it was a vessel that contained a metal block.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you all.
    I think the author meant it as a type 2 hypothetical if-clause with a supposed effect in the past. This would be valid because the vessel, whatever it is, presumably still is whatever it is, allowing a present/timeless if-clause, but the turn took place in the past so a conditional perfect main clause is needed.
    So do you mean it’s a mixed 2/3 conditional, just like this sentence “were they not soured by the recollection of all that they had undergone.” discussed here (were they not soured=had they not been soured?
    By the way, could you elaborate on what you mean by “timeless if-clause”?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    So do you mean it’s a mixed 2/3 conditional, just like this sentence “were they not soured by the recollection of all that they had undergone.” discussed here (were they not soured=had they not been soured?
    As you know, I don't think that a type-2 if-clause fits in that sentence. I take "soured" to be a verb, describing an action that happened in the past.

    By the way, could you elaborate on what you mean by “timeless if-clause”?
    Just think of a typical type 2 conditional: "If I were you...". It says nothing about time, and it could refer to past, present or future. If necessary, you can establish a time in the main clause, but the if-clause is usually timeless:
    If I were you, I wouldn't have gone to Brighton last week.​
    If I were you, I'd be revising right now.​
    If I were you, I'd pay off my mortgage next year.​

    It isn't only hypothetical situations that are timeless; type 0 conditionals (general truths) are also timeless, in this case using the present tense, and the present tense is often used for timeless clauses in other situations, such as proverbs.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    As you know, I don't think that a type-2 if-clause fits in that sentence. I take "soured" to be a verb, describing an action that happened in the past.
    Thank you again. Sorry, I misunderstood you. But the soured example can be considered as a mixed 2/3 conditional, which is David and Loob’s idea, if I represent their thinking correctly.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    I think the author meant it as a type 2 hypothetical if-clause with a supposed effect in the past. This would be valid because the vessel, whatever it is, presumably still is whatever it is, allowing a present/timeless if-clause, but the turn took place in the past so a conditional perfect main clause is needed.
    Oh, I forgot to ask. Do you think “If it had been a vessel containing a metal block” works in this (op) context?
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Yes, I think that would be fine.
    Thank you.
    So to summarize, you think “had been” and “was” mean different things (The former is past state while the latter is present state) in this context while teddy thinks they are the same (both refer to past state), is that true?:rolleyes::confused:
    I know you can’t speak for others but I often misunderstand your ideas.:oops:
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    So to summarize, you think “had been” and “was” mean different things
    Yes, but both have multiple meanings, and some situations can use either. "Was" could refer a real situation in the past or a hypothetical situation in the present or when time does not matter. "Had been" can only refer to a situation in the past, real or unreal.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you again.
    So the op example is a mixed 2/3 conditional which, however, neither its if-clause nor its main clause is counterfactual. Is my thinking right?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    So the op example is a mixed 2/3 conditional which, however, neither its if-clause nor its main clause is counterfactual. Is my thinking right?
    If it is type 2 if-clause, it can only be counterfactual in modern English. A type 2 if-clause can (should) use the subjunctive; a real situation does not. However, often you cannot tell the difference and often people use the indicative instead of the subjunctive anyway, so you cannot tell which is meant (this is the situation here). A real conditional is not "a mixed 2/3 conditional", whatever the main clause.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think the author meant it as a type 2 hypothetical if-clause with a supposed effect in the past.
    I am confused about what you mean by “type 2”. Might the fragment (it) become a vessel? If the fragment never was, is or will be a vessel, how can the sentence be anything other than counterfactual (type 3, or maybe “mixed” with type 3 meaning)?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I am confused about what you mean by “type 2”.
    An ordinary type 2 conditional, of the form "If I were you, I wouldn't do that".

    In this case, the effect being considered (the flattening of the block during the turn) is in the past (the turn is a real event that took place in the past), so the main clause needs to use the conditional perfect rather than the conditional present.

    Ordinarily, since the effect is in the past, then the situation is in the past as well, and a type 3 if-clause would be used ("If it had been a vessel containing a metal block..."). However, if the situation is presumed not to change (whatever it was before the turn is presumably what it still is after the turn), then a timeless type 2 if-clause can be used instead.

    I suppose it is similar to reported speech for general truths. Peter's saying "One plus one is two" could be backshifted to "Peter said that one plus one was two", since that is what he said at that time, or it could retain the present tense, indicating the timelessness of what he said: "Peter said that one plus one is two", even though "said" is in the past.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    So is “was” a substitute for “had been” here, which is a standard type 3 conditional, meaning the fragment can’t have been a vessel but just an illusion?[...]
    It's not a substitute for 'had been', it's an error. He means a III conditional.

    I don't know if it would be an error in American English.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you.
    If it is type 2 if-clause, it can only be counterfactual in modern English. A type 2 if-clause can (should) use the subjunctive; a real situation does not. However, often you cannot tell the difference and often people use the indicative instead of the subjunctive anyway, so you cannot tell which is meant (this is the situation here). A real conditional is not "a mixed 2/3 conditional", whatever the main clause.
    I think the author meant it as a type 2 hypothetical if-clause with a supposed effect in the past.
    So in the op example, its if-clause is a counterfactual type 2 conditional, suggesting the fragment is not a vessel containing a metal block, and the fragment’s being such a vessel is presumed not to change while the main clause is a real conditional?:confused: How can “would have” be indicative instead of subjunctive?

    Cross-posted
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    But the situation has changed: the fragment is now a vessel containing a metal block. Or are you reading the condition as referring to something else?
    I don't understand. At what point did it become a vessel containing a metal block? Either it was never such a thing or it was always such a thing. I thought we had at least agreed that it was never such a thing. It isn't one now, and it wasn't one at the time of the turn.

    So in the op example, its if-clause is a counterfactual type 2 conditional, suggesting the fragment is not a vessel containing a metal block, and the fragment’s being such a vessel is presumed not to change while the main clause is a real conditional?:confused: How can “would have” be indicative instead of subjunctive?
    A conditional contains two clauses; an if-clause describing a situation and a main clause describing a possible effect. The trouble with the usual type 1/type 2/type 3 conditional nomenclature is that the two clauses appears to be tied together, that one always belongs with the other. This is probably valid for more than 90% of conditional sentences, and it is a useful way of teaching them, but the ones that fit this pattern are the easy ones, whereas the conditional sentences you ask about are invariably more complex.

    For almost all conditional sentences, the idea of being hypothetical/unreal/counterfactual (or not) is contained within the situation, described by the if-clause. If the if-clause is hypothetical, then the entire sentence is hypothetical, and it makes no sense to say something like "the main clause is a real conditional". "Conditional" refers to both clauses together, not to one on its own.

    I never said anything about use of the subjunctive in the main clause. Here the if clause used "it was" (indicative). This leads to three possibilities that I can see:
    1. A deliberate use of the past indicative to indicate a real situation in the past.
    2. The writer does not distinguish between indicative and subjunctive moods, at least, not in this situation.
    3. The writer made a mistake, and the correct verb form should have been something else, such as "it had been".
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thanks again.
    I never said anything about use of the subjunctive in the main clause.
    If the if-clause is hypothetical, then the entire sentence is hypothetical,
    The writer does not distinguish between indicative and subjunctive moods, at least, not in this situation.
    I think the author meant it as a type 2 hypothetical if-clause with a supposed effect in the past.
    If I understand you correctly, although you have said that we can’t tell which mood the writer meant with the if-clause, you seem to be inclined to think the if-clause is a type 2 hypothetical if-clause, which means the entire sentence is hypothetical. If the entire sentence is hypothetical, then the main clause with “would have” should be subjunctive, not indicative, right?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    the main clause with “would have” should be subjunctive, not indicative, right?
    There isn't a difference in English. I am not a language theorist; to me, the subjunctive mood in English only exists in the simple present and the simple past tenses, as these are the only places it can be expressed.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    There isn't a difference in English. I am not a language theorist; to me, the subjunctive mood in English only exists in the simple present and the simple past tenses, as these are the only places it can be expressed.
    Thank you. I don’t quite understand this (as written above) but now I come to make up my mind to think the op example is wrong, just as Egmont, TT and you suggest.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thetazuo, in the context of the rest of the story, what is the significance of the “vessel containing a metal block”?
    1) Does the story lead us to suspect that a vessel containing a metal block might exist? Or
    2) is the vessel containing a metal block purely hypothetical, and mentioned in this one sentence only as a way to explain the physics discussed in the sentence?
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Thetazuo, in the context of the rest of the story, what is the significance of the “vessel containing a metal block”?
    1) Does the story lead us to suspect that a vessel containing a metal block might exist? Or
    2) is the vessel containing a metal block purely hypothetical, and mentioned in this one sentence only as a way to explain the physics discussed in the sentence?
    I didn't read the book but I followed this interesting thread.
    Just from the context in the OP it seems clear to me that the metal block itself is purely hypothetical. Its purpose is to suggest that if a metal block is being deformed so much by deceleration forces or centrifugal forces, then no organism or physical object like a guidance computer inside the vessel could have survived a turn with such speed, which in turn suggests that it could not have been a man-made or alien-made vessel.

    In the mind of the speaker, however, the vessel itself is still treated as a real possibility. It is this hypothetical example that turns the vessel idea from possible to highly unlikely, and yet not impossible. o_O This sounds strange at first, but don't forget, the book is pure science-fiction.
    And from a language perspective, the German language, where we still have a formal subjunctive mood, this kind of mixing of realis and irrealis is possible - odd but possible nevertheless. When English dropped the formal subjunctive in the 12th century or so, the language logic behind it didn't disappear, you're just using it in a slightly different way now and explain it with different terminology (conditional 1/2/3, etc).

    It would be so easy for thetazuo to find the original, intended meaning. He's Chinese and the original book was written by a Chinese; according to Wiki the translation was done by Joel Martinsen, a Beijing-based translator from Washington DC, i.e. an AE speaker. Why not compare the original sentence with the translated version?
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thetazuo, in the context of the rest of the story, what is the significance of the “vessel containing a metal block”?
    1) Does the story lead us to suspect that a vessel containing a metal block might exist? Or
    2) is the vessel containing a metal block purely hypothetical, and mentioned in this one sentence only as a way to explain the physics discussed in the sentence?
    Hi, teddy. I might need to finish reading the novel before I can give you a clear-cut answer. But my gut feeling about the English translation is that option 1) is not the point in this context; 2) would fit in the context: the vessel containing a metal block is purely hypothetical.
    It would be so easy for thetazuo to find the original, intended meaning. He's Chinese and the original book was written by a Chinese; according to Wiki the translation was done by Joel Martinsen, a Beijing-based translator from Washington DC, i.e. an AE speaker. Why not compare the original sentence with the translated version?
    Hi, manfy. When I first read the Chinese text, I thought the sentence was purely imaginary, although the principle of physics behind it holds. So only a type 3 conditional would fit in the context. But since the translator is a native speaker and I assume he has a good command of English language, I thought he must have some reason to use simple past in the if-clause. But now after reading the posts in this thread, I conclude that it can only be an error. If I were to translate the original Chinese sentence, I would translate it into a type 3 conditional, as in “If it had been an aircraft containing a metal block, the deceleration forces resulted from the sudden change of direction would have flattened the metal block into a thin film instantly.”
    In the mind of the speaker, however, the vessel itself is still treated as a real possibility. It is this hypothetical example that turns the vessel idea from possible to highly unlikely, and yet not impossible. o_O
    But the text already says “So the fragment had to be an illusion.”, which excludes the possibility of its being a vessel/aircraft.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    But now after reading the posts in this thread, I conclude that it can only be an error.
    I find that highly unlikely. I skimmed through one interview with him available on the net and he doesn't strike me as a person who translated this just to make a quick buck. He seems to be a real language buff. Granted, his main interest lies in Mandarin, but in my experience it's practically impossible to be pedantic about one language and then sloppy with your own tongue.
    Based on this I'm almost certain that he put some thought into it.

    But the text already says “So the fragment had to be an illusion.”, which excludes the possibility of its being a vessel/aircraft.
    True! But this conclusion comes after the sentence in question. If he had used a type 3 conditional, it might have given the reader the impression of a pre-digested statement. In the actual real world thought process you often start with the assumption that your hypothesis is actually true and then you add hypothetical aspects (just like this metal cube) in order to arrive at a conclusion of possible/probable/unlikely/impossible. So maybe he translated it that way because he felt it brings the reader closer to the thought process of the narrator or whoever said that line. Of course this comes at the price of deviating from standard grammar; but well, a lot of good writers make use of artistic license.

    If you're seriously interested, you might just ask the translator. He's got several blogs in English and yesterday I saw one with his email address. Unfortunately I can't find that one any more, but he has a twitter account in English, where he's discussing literature and it seems active and recent. It's at jdmartinsen (I don't want to post an actual twitter link here, but it should be easy to find on the net).
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    pre-digested statement
    Hi. What does this mean?
    In the actual real world thought process you often start with the assumption that your hypothesis is actually true and then you add hypothetical aspects (just like this metal cube) in order to arrive at a conclusion of possible/probable/unlikely/impossible.
    And I don’t quite understand this. Could you elaborate on it?
    I find that highly unlikely. I skimmed through one interview with him available on the net and he doesn't strike me as a person who translated this just to make a quick buck. He seems to be a real language buff. Granted, his main interest lies in Mandarin, but in my experience it's practically impossible to be pedantic about one language and then sloppy with your own tongue.
    Based on this I'm almost certain that he put some thought into it.
    Really? According to other native speakers, this translator seems to keep making mistakes in forming conditionals. If you’re interested, you may have a look at another thread of mine. I think you can find it yourself.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    With "pre-digested statement" I meant that the problem was already thought through by the speaker, and the statement is only given to support the conclusion. This is normal textbook style and therefore can have a lecturing tone. That works well in a textbook, but not so good in literary prose where you want the reader mentally involved in the progress of the story.

    When you encounter an unexpected problem or phenomenon in science and technology, you mentally analyze it by looking at it from many different angles. You start from what you think you know and then you add various hypothetical factors to it until you arrive at a reasonable conclusion. It's a lengthy process and the author can't describe all of it or else most readers would lose interest, but he can suggest that type of thought process to the reader, for instance by changing verb moods.
    I can't know whether this was really the motivation of the translator for using "if it was a vessel..." instead of "if it had been a vessel...", but for some reason he must have thought it was more suitable, more engaging in this part of the story.
    Really? According to other native speakers, this translator seems to keep making mistakes in forming conditionals.
    :) Only TT explicitly said that it's an error and even so, he did not say that this is absolutely unthinkable and that he's never seen anything like that in his whole life. ;)
    What I'm trying to say is that it's absolutely normal that different people have different opinions about the same thing. I'd be more worried, if I saw that 5-10 people have the very same opinion about a complex topic like English conditionals (and here I'm not including standard conditionals 0-3 from prescriptive grammar!).
    Different opinions and different viewpoints are a basic requirement for language evolution. And English is a living language, after all.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you again.
    In the actual real world thought process you often start with the assumption that your hypothesis is actually true and then you add hypothetical aspects (just like this metal cube) in order to arrive at a conclusion of possible/probable/unlikely/impossible.
    So do you mean, in this case, the thought process is that the writer starts with the assumption "the fragment was a vessel containing a metal block" is true and then adds hypothetical aspects "the change in direction would have exerted such force as to flatten that metal block into a thin film" and at last he thinks the initial assumption needs to be reconsidered and arrives at the conclusion that the fragment can't have been a vessel containing a metal block?
    If I get it right, then I'd say the op example is rather like a detective's conditional (in TT's words).:p
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Thank you again.

    So do you mean, in this case, the thought process is that the writer starts with the assumption "the fragment was a vessel containing a metal block" is true and then adds hypothetical aspects "the change in direction would have exerted such force as to flatten that metal block into a thin film" and at last he thinks the initial assumption needs to be reconsidered and arrives at the conclusion that the fragment can't have been a vessel containing a metal block?
    :thumbsup:
    Yes, that captures the essence of what I was trying to say.
    The only exception is that I don't see "the fragment was a vessel containing a metal block" as one continued form as you would express it with language, but a mix of real and hypothetical. The standard grammar does not provide for this, but your mind can go beyond the limits of grammar.
    So, you could piece it together as:
    If the fragment was a vessel -> here you're mentally setting the premise that the object was a real vessel
    containing a metal block - > here you're mentally adding a hypothetical object to the preset premise; then you're drawing a conclusion

    In spoken language aimed to communicate the idea to others, you might say:
    If the fragment (really) was a vessel, which, let's say, happened to have a metal block onboard, then <probable effect based on physics> would have happened; ergo, <conclusion>
    The tense in the then-clause must be a past form because you're referring in both clauses of the conditional to the event of the sharp turn that had been observed earlier. (With this I'm saying the same thing that Uncle Jack has said above)
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    While I am not entirely sure I agree with manfy, he gets a bonus point for managing to incorporate the past indicative "was" into his reasoning. That was the weakness in my post #5. Now, if thetazuo can find an example of the translator using the past subjunctive in a type 2 if-clause elsewhere in the book, it would probably clinch it for manfy.

    What I'm trying to say is that it's absolutely normal that different people have different opinions about the same thing. I'd be more worried, if I saw that 5-10 people have the very same opinion about a complex topic like English conditionals (and here I'm not including standard conditionals 0-3 from prescriptive grammar!).
    I agree with this part. :)
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you very much, manfy and Jack.
    Now, if thetazuo can find an example of the translator using the past subjunctive in a type 2 if-clause elsewhere in the book, it would probably clinch it for manfy.
    I think I have done a thorough search in the book but couldn’t find any type 2 if-clause using the past subjunctive. Maybe he translator likes past indicative.

    There’s one point I seem to have missed.
    Are the following versions different in your opinions?

    If it was a vessel containing a metal block, the change in direction would have...
    If it were a vessel containing a metal block, the change in direction would have...

    I always think they are the same in the sense that both if-clauses are hypothetical because people often use them interchangeably.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    In modern English, "If it were" can only be used for a hypothetical situation, a type 2 if-clause but, as you know, many people use the past indicative instead. I might have mistaken manfy's line of reasoning, but I think he was suggesting the writer was using a real past conditional, which has to use the past indicative.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. I see.
    In modern English, "If it were" can only be used for a hypothetical situation, a type 2 if-clause but, as you know, many people use the past indicative instead. I might have mistaken manfy's line of reasoning, but I think he was suggesting the writer was using a real past conditional, which has to use the past indicative.
    So do you mean the past subjunctive “If it were a vessel containing a metal block,...” is not possible in the op context?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    So if it’s possible, as you said in post 5, why don’t you think it’s a mix 2/3 conditional, which is hypothetical, as you seem to suggest?
    Where did I say I don't think it's a mixed 2/3 conditional? I wouldn't have said it was one, because I rarely use the terminology of "mixed" conditionals for the rather complicated conditional sentences you usually ask about.
     

    tunaafi

    Senior Member
    English - British (Southern England)
    I rarely use the terminology of "mixed" conditionals for the rather complicated conditional sentences you usually ask about.
    It is, in my opinion, a useful category from the point of view of time references (if one accept the numbering system of labelling conditional categories).

    If a vessel contains a metal block, a change in direction exerts a force. Zero condition, general time, factual.
    If the vessel contains a metal block, a change in direction will exert a force.First condition, future time, predictive.
    If the vessel contained a metal block, a change in direction would exert a force. Second condition, future time, hypothetical
    If the vessel contained a metal block, it would be lower in the water/a change in direction would be exerting a force.. Second condition, present time, counterfactual..
    If the vessel had contained a metal block, a change in direction would have exerted a force.
    Third condition, past time, counterfactual.
    If the vessel had contained a metal block, it would be lower in the water, a change in direction would be exerting a force. Mixed condition past-time condition, present time result,, counterfactual.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If the vessel had contained a metal block, it would be lower in the water, a change in direction would be exerting a force. Mixed condition past-time condition, present time result,, counterfactual.
    I'm not with you here, Tunaafi.

    I can't think of a context to fit your sentence.

    How can it be lower in the water if it no longer contains the metal block?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If the vessel had contained a metal block, it would be lower in the water.

    You are right. My bad. Let's try this:

    If a metal container had been loaded aboard the vessel, it would be lower in the water.
    If a metal container had been loaded aboard the vessel, it would be lower in the water.

    Yes, that's fine, a standard III/II mixed conditional, where we look at the present result of an imagined or real event in the past.
     
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