If my grandfather was alive today, he might have enjoyed...

< Previous | Next >

Nawee

Senior Member
Thai
Hello,

I have a couple of questions with this sentence, which I came across in Cambridge's "Advance Grammar In Use".

"If my grandfather was alive today, he might have enjoyed looking after our garden."

1. Why is "might have enjoyed" used in this sentence instead of "might enjoy"? I thought "might" was a possible modal verb that could be used instead of "would" in conditional sentences, but why change the tense altogether?

2. Nowadays, is the subjunctive "were" still commonly used?

Thank you.

Nawee
 
  • BLUEGLAZE

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Grandfather is no longer alive. The clause should use 'were'. I don't believe 'were' is used as it should be by most people.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Some people (in fact some dialects) consistently use 'were' here, but 'was' is fine too, and is what I'd normally say. It can be used no matter how hypothetical the situation is. However, 'might have enjoyed' is more hypothetical. If my brother was here he might enjoy this: in fact he's not here, but he could be. If my dead grandfather was here (or had been here), he might have enjoyed this, but he can't be here, of course.
     

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If grandfather were still alive, but simply elsewhere, you could say, "If my grandfather were here this summer, he might enjoy looking after our garden."

    I also prefer "were," though "was" is now probably more common in spoken AE.
     

    Nawee

    Senior Member
    Thai
    Just to make sure I understand correctly. "might have enjoyed" is less likely than "might enjoy"? Would it be wrong to say, "might enjoy" in this case?

    "If my grandfather were alive today, he would enjoy taking care of our garden."
     

    Bondstreet

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    >> "If my grandfather was alive today, he might have enjoyed looking after our garden."

    1. Why is "might have enjoyed" used in this sentence instead of "might enjoy"? I thought "might" was a possible modal verb that could be used instead of "would" in conditional sentences, but why change the tense altogether? <<


    1: "might have enjoyed" is more correct - past subjunctive, a possible event in the past is being imagined. If you say "he might enjoy" you are assuming a present event which cannot exist. He might enjoy it, but he can't, because he cannot be here...

    >> 2. Nowadays, is the subjunctive "were" still commonly used? <<

    It is used less than it should be. If you mention the subjunctive to most modern youth, they do not know what you are talking about. I would say "If my grandfather were alive today", but the uneducated would say "was".
     

    Nawee

    Senior Member
    Thai
    If "would" is used instead of "might", should the sentence be "would enjoy" or "would have enjoyed"?

    "If my grandfather were alive today, he [would enjoy/would have enjoyed] taking care of our garden."
    (= My grandfather is not alive today, so he can't enjoy taking care of our garden.)

    Most grammar books talk about "the second conditional" with the past tense in the condition part and "would" + infinitive in the main clause. That's why "might have enjoyed" threw me a bit. "would" + infinitive seems to work fine in the following sentence.

    "If my grandfather were alive today, he would be a hundred."
    (= My grandfather is not alive today, so he is not a hundred years old.)

    Thank you.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    In my English, the sentence in the book that claims to be teaching you grammar is not grammatical:
    "If my grandfather was alive today, he might have enjoyed looking after our garden." This sentence entertains the possibility that the grandfather may have been alive earlier in the day.

    In fact, the grandfather is dead, and other tenses are required for this contrary-to-fact "if" statement.

    The grammatically correct sentence would be:
    If my grandfather were alive today, he might enjoy looking after our garden.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's well-known that there are AE/BE differences in the use of the subjunctive. In BE the subjunctive is often regarded as over-formal for speech, though there are circumstances where we do use it.

    As entangledbank says in post #3, the subjunctive "were" is not obligatory in BE. Many BE speakers (even educated ones) would not use the subjunctive here, especially in speech. The textbook Nawee is using seems to be a British publication.

    For me, "might have enjoyed" or "would have enjoyed" are the most obvious choices of modal verb.

    (Edited to add missing word "are".)
     
    Last edited:

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If "would" is used instead of "might", should the sentence be "would enjoy" or "would have enjoyed"?

    "If my grandfather were alive today, he [would enjoy/would have enjoyed] taking care of our garden."
    (= My grandfather is not alive today, so he can't enjoy taking care of our garden.)

    Most grammar books talk about "the second conditional" with the past tense in the condition part and "would" + infinitive in the main clause. That's why "might have enjoyed" threw me a bit. "would" + infinitive seems to work fine in the following sentence.

    "If my grandfather were alive today, he would be a hundred."
    (= My grandfather is not alive today, so he is not a hundred years old.)

    Thank you.
    Hello Nawee,

    I'm sorry that your thread has got hijacked by the great subjunctive goosechase, despite your pushing it in the other direction.

    What you have here is not a 2nd conditional - if he was alive, he would enjoy.

    But a mixed 2nd/3rd conditional - if he was alive, he would have enjoyed.

    The difference is that the 2nd concentrates on an individual moment, and the mixed 2nd/3rd on an ongoing state.

    As being dead is an ongoing state, the mixed 2nd/3rd is appropriate here.
    Just to make sure I understand correctly. "might have enjoyed" is less likely than "might enjoy"? Would it be wrong to say, "might enjoy" in this case?

    "If my grandfather were alive today, he would enjoy taking care of our garden."
    I think that would be very odd. You can't really posit his being here because he's dead.

    I find the question interesting because we could say If he (someone who is alive) was here, he would enjoy.

    I'm sorry that someone has denounced the indicative in this sort of case as uneducated in BE. I've known other people say that from time to time, but I'm entirely with Entangled and Velisarius on that point.
     
    Last edited:

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    You can't really posit his being here because
    I am too struggling with 'would have enjoyed' construction.
    How is the OP impossibility of the if clause different from: ?
    "If a lion could speak, we couldn't understand him" (instead of 'we could not have understood him?')
    Or a version with: if a lion spoke to us today..

    Here is the link to that grammar book paragraph but it is very condensely written.
    The sentence in there is: If my grandfather was/were still alive today, he might have enjoyed looking after our garden.
    Does the 'still' play any part?

    Thank you.
     
    Last edited:

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Question for some of the "was" folk:
    Should the song "Wish You Were Here" have been, instead, titled "Wish You Was Here?"
    I don't understand your point. Both I wish he was here (past simple or preterite tense) and I wish he were here (irrealis for a remote conditional) are regarded as equivalent. Was is described as less formal by the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, which gives the following examples:
    "Preterite was, however, is very widely used instead of irrealis were in these constructions, especially in informal style: He talks to me as if I was a child, I wish I was going with you."
    Who is suggesting that you were be replaced by you was? All these examples of a change from was to were concern only the third person of the verb.
    It should also be noted that If my grandfather was alive today has to be changed when the clause is inverted (i.e. we have to say Were my grandfather alive today).
     
    Last edited:

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I am too struggling with 'would have enjoyed' construction.
    How is the OP impossibility of the if clause different from: ?
    "If a lion could speak, we couldn't understand him" (instead of 'we could not have understood him?')
    Or a version with: if a lion spoke to us today..

    Here is the link to that grammar book paragraph but it is very condensely written.
    The sentence in there is: If my grandfather was/were still alive today, he might have enjoyed looking after our garden.
    Does the 'still' play any part?

    Thank you.
    It's a very good question, Siares.

    Your grammar book couldn't inform me about what you have been told, because the link didn't work for me.

    The problem with your grammar book's sentence is that the modals can easily hide the grammar, by stopping us knowing what tense is being used.

    In BE many feel we should use the subjunctive (if he were) for logical impossibilities (my being you, retreating forwards, being in two places at once, etc) but do not need to for technical impossibilities (my being in Paris, trains traveling at 2,000 mph, people rising from the dead, etc).

    Now lions speaking is not a logical impossibility, so we can say If a lion was to speak, we wouldn't be able to understand him (let's clarify the modal auxiliaries).

    But lions being leopards is a logical impossibility, so we'd say If a lion were a leopard, we wouldn't be able to tell them apart.

    People who talk of 'unreal' conditions needing subjunctives trouble me, because they don't distinguish between these different cases, which people who care about language clearly do, not necessarily consciously. I can only vouch for British English here; it's the language I speak. Look at other threads for informed American English views; they are very varied. I ought to add that there are British English speakers who disagree with me too, as may soon become evident.

    Grandfather's being alive is not a logical impossibility, but it is a technical impossibility. For me this means we can use both was or were, depending on how deeply we wish to stress his being dead.

    But Grandfather's being alive cannot be an ongoing condition, granted that we know that he's dead; this means that we can't use the simple 2nd conditional in its standard conditional form, which is concerned with the future - If he was awake, he would enjoy that (were he awake, he would enjoy that). We can use the 2nd conditional here because not being awake is not a permanent state).

    We need, therefore, to use the mixed 2nd/3rd conditional in grandfather's case - if he was alive, he would have enjoyed that (this refers to a very recent event, maybe only a minute earlier).

    We could also, of course, use the 3rd conditional - if he had been alive, he would have enjoyed that (this refers to an event some time back).

    I'm sorry to produce such a long post, but your question merited serious consideration. Happy Christmas!
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Question for some of the "was" folk:
    Should the song "Wish You Were Here" have been, instead, titled "Wish You Was Here?"
    Tiny point:
    The past indicative tense of to be - I was, you were, he was, we were, you were, they were.
    The past subjunctive tense of to be - I were, you were, he were, we were, you were, they were.
     
    Last edited:

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    We need, therefore, to use the mixed 2nd/3rd conditional in grandfather's case -

    What is this? I know what the subjunctive/conditional is. That is to say I know it as well as anybody else because in English it is totally screwed up, ruined, and incomprehensible. What is this 2nd/3rd business?
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I am overjoyed with your long response, thank you, Thomas. Merry Christmas to you too!
    if he was alive, he would have enjoyed that (this refers to a very recent event, maybe only a minute earlier).
    What gives clues that OP refers to a recent event? I thought it was about grandfather's proclivity:
    My grandad was good at gardening, but when he was alive, we didn't have a garden. Now we do but don't enjoy looking after it - if only he was still around! He might....

    The grammar book I linked to wasn't mine, it was OP's (result of search in Google books). That paragraph didn't deal with was/were at all, only with the 'would have'. I attach it. It also gives this sentence:
    If my grandfather was/were still alive, he would be a hundred today.

    Very interesting about logical/technical!
    I am having trouble disentangling this with 'death'
    For a dead thing to become alive, that sounds technical impossibility.
    But, for a dead thing to be alive / to not be dead, that sounds also like a logical impossibility.

    Unfortunately I didn't clearly understand the extent to which these 2 explanations overlap:
    1) the explanation to preferring were/was (technical vs. logical impossibility)
    and
    2) the explanation to using mixed conditionals (technical impossibility + ongoingness?)

    Because, in that case I am still not clear:
    the below are both technically impossible
    Grandfather's being alive is not a logical impossibility, but it is a technical impossibility
    if he was alive, he would have enjoyed that
    But Grandfather's being alive cannot be an ongoing condition, granted that we know that he's dead; this means that we can't use the simple 2nd conditional in its standard conditional form, which is concerned with the future.

    lions speaking is not a logical impossibility
    If a lion was to speak, we wouldn't be able to understand him
    Why does not the the same logic (of the 'alive' sentence) apply in the lion sentence?
    Lion's speaking cannot be ongoing, granted that we know lions can't speak.

    Thank you.



     

    Attachments

    Last edited:

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    Let me add my two pennies. The logic of English conditionals (in the context of the 2nd and 3rd conditional and putting aside the subjunctive issue), seems to suggest that pretty much anything is technically possible unless it belongs to the past (also construable as the state vs event distinction). My students used to wonder why "If I was/ were a man/woman" should be in the 2nd conditional since it's clearly impossible for somebody to be of the opposite sex but they no longer do. So apparently being alive or dead is only a matter of technological prowess.

    I'm more intrigued by the "might have enjoyed" part. It does suggest a sense of being past. Of course, the original sentence lacks context and as such could be about anything (the family had to find somebody to look after the garden while they were on holiday, and if the grandfather was/ were alive, he might have enjoyed looking after the garden relative to this particular event either already past or soon to become past). I expect "If my grandfather was/ were alive today, he would enjoy looking after the garden" is not impossible (I don't like "might" here since the implication seems to be that the speaker didn't know the grandfather well enough).
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    OK, "might" is the conditional/subjunctive of "may". Usage: I have a hammer. I may use it. OR: I have a hammer. If I had a nail I might use it.

    The sentence in the OP seems pretty normal. I don't like using "might" very often because it seems as if you are squeezing out a possibility. "I might do it if you would just ..." I prefer the "if ... would" construction.

    Why bother talking about what grandfather "might" have done? We all might have done anything. Grandfather WOULD have enjoyed gardening, I'm sure.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Let me add my two pennies. The logic of English conditionals (in the context of the 2nd and 3rd conditional and putting aside the subjunctive issue), seems to suggest that pretty much anything is technically possible unless it belongs to the past (also construable as the state vs event distinction). My students used to wonder why "If I was/ were a man/woman" should be in the 2nd conditional since it's clearly impossible for somebody to be of the opposite sex but they no longer do. So apparently being alive or dead is only a matter of technological prowess.
    I am afraid I have not been able to make much sense of numbered conditionals. Are they forms, or meanings? Which is which?
    I'm more intrigued by the "might have enjoyed" part. It does suggest a sense of being past. Of course, the original sentence lacks context and as such could be about anything (the family had to find somebody to look after the garden while they were on holiday, and if the grandfather was/ were alive, he might have enjoyed looking after the garden relative to this particular event either already past or soon to become past). I expect "If my grandfather was/ were alive today, he would enjoy looking after the garden" is not impossible (I don't like "might" here since the implication seems to be that the speaker didn't know the grandfather well enough).
    This is essentially my understanding of these forms. The perfect infinitive "have enjoyed" is about earlier enjoyment than plain "enjoy".

    Suppose we are looking at a garden overgrown with tall grass and weed-strangled pepper plants. My grandfather, obviously, has not looked after it, but perhaps that is just because he is no longer alive. If he were still alive, he might have looked after it.
     
    Last edited:

    Nawee

    Senior Member
    Thai
    As a student who learns English as a second language, I am taught these rules and constructions.

    1st conditional: If I see him, I will tell him you called.
    2nd conditional: If I were you, I would call him.
    3rd conditional: If I had been there, I would have told him myself.

    Some grammar books also talk about the "zero conditional": If water reaches 100C, it boils.

    I think the numbers are there so the learner has some labels to call the constructions.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Why does not the the same logic (of the 'alive' sentence) apply in the lion sentence?
    Hello Siares,

    Let's look at this one issue at a time, so that the posts don't become very long.

    There are two issues: the was/were issue and the tense-sequencing (which number conditional?) issue. Let's restrict ourselves to the tense-sequencing issue.

    1. If a lion was to speak, we wouldn't be able to understand him:tick: - ordinary 2nd conditional.
    2. If a lion had spoken, we wouldn't have been able to understand him:tick: - ordinary 3rd conditional.
    3. If a lion was to speak, we wouldn't have been able to understand him:cross: - mixed 2nd/3rd conditional.

    1a. If he was alive, he would enjoy that:cross: - ordinary 2nd conditional.
    2a. If he had been alive, he would have enjoyed that:tick: - ordinary 3rd conditional.
    3a. If he was alive, he would have enjoyed that:tick: - mixed 2nd/3rd conditional.

    What's the difference between the two cases in the second conditional? (Remember we are concerned in its application to the future: what would follow from the condition's being met in the future).

    Why is the lion sentence (1.) all right and the grandfather (he) sentence (1a.) not? Because being alive is a continuous state, not something which can easily be a sudden event, like speaking. (Had sentence 1a been 1b. If he rose from the dead, he would enjoy that, that would have been understandable, despite being macabre).

    What's the difference between the two cases in the mixed 2nd/3rd conditional? (Remember we are concerned with an ongoing state and its effect upon a past event: what would have followed from the condition's being met both then and now).


    Why is the grandfather (he) sentence (3a.) all right and the lion sentence (3.) not? Because being alive is a continuous state, not something which can easily be a sudden event, like speaking. (Had sentence 3. been 3b. If the lion was able to speak, we would not have understood him, that would have been understandable).

    I think the numbers are there so the learner has some labels to call the constructions.
    This is a good point, Nawee. The numbers provide templates for standard forms of proper conditionals (sentences which are concerned with the consequences contingent upon a condition's being met).

    One problem is that many native speakers use other forms, outside the numbered templates. Sometimes they do this out of laziness or slovenliness; sometimes they do it because there are many if-clause forms which do not introduce proper conditionals.

    This means that most attempts in a forum like this to explain tense-sequencing in conditional sentences using the standard templates meet opposition from members who don't think this complex issue can be reduced to a series of more-or-less simple rules. If we don't reduce it to such rules, however, learners (and many natives) will find this area extremely difficult to approach.
     
    Last edited:

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    1a. If he was alive, he would enjoy that:cross: - ordinary 2nd conditional.
    Sorry, Thomas Tompion, why is this one incorrect? Other than the "was/ were" issue, which can be put aside for the moment, I don't see any significant difference between this example and the ones below.

    My, if he were alive today, he would enjoy the Amsterdam News, the Pittshurgh Courier, the Philadelphia Trihune, and the Los Angeles Eagle and Sentinel. (Robert Scott Jones, Joy in the Morning)

    I'm sure that if he were alive today he would enjoy the stories about himself, and the way they improve with age... (Crow and Dove, Perspectives on Genetics)

    Bill has gone to that great beyond, and took his Charro costume with him insofar as possible, I am sure if he were alive today he would enjoy my relating the following colorful incident in his interesting life. (Trailer Life)
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    This means that most attempts in a forum like this to explain tense-sequencing in conditional sentences using the standard templates meet opposition from members who don't think this complex issue can be reduced to a series of more-or-less simple rules. If we don't reduce it to such rules, however, learners (and many natives) will find this area extremely difficult to approach.
    What is a good source for learning the rules? Most grammar books that I have seen in my area are outdated.
     

    Kirusha

    Senior Member
    Oh no. Is the 'today' paramount in there?
    OP contains 'still today' - yet different.
    Sorry, I'm totally lost. How can "today" or "still" change the acceptability of the 2nd conditional with the "if he was/ were alive" clause (as contrasted with a mixed 2nd/ 3rd conditional)? Here are some other examples:

    “Nevertheless,” said the solicitor, “if he were still alive he would inherit if—er —anything happened to the present legatee.” (Catherine Aird, Slight Mourining)

    She knew he was only in her imagination, because if he were alive, he would never hurt her by pretending he was dead. (Mallory Kane, Security Breach)
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Today is of no relevance.
    Sentences of the following kind are acceptable:
    If George Washington were alive, would he chop the cherry tree down?
    Were George Washington alive, would he chop the cherry tree down?


    To quote the following two sentences from the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language:
    "
    b. If they were alive now they would be horrified. [remote]
    c. If they had been alive now they would have been horrified. [doubly remote]​

    The difference between and [c] is not very tangible."​
     
    Last edited:

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Today is of no relevance.
    Sentences of the following kind are acceptable:
    If George Washington were alive, would he chop the cherry tree down?
    Were George Washington alive, would he chop the cherry tree down?


    To quote the following two sentences from the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language:
    "
    b. If they were alive now they would be horrified. [remote]
    c. If they had been alive now they would have been horrified. [doubly remote]​

    The difference between and [c] is not very tangible."​
    Hi E2e4,

    Remember that I was considering, as I specified,
    its application to the future: what would follow from the condition's being met in the future
    Both your examples from the Cambridge descriptive grammar use the word now.

    I may be over-sensitive about life and death - I'm not happy with the George Washington examples either, though I'm entirely comfortable with the 3rd and mixed 2nd/3rd versions of that first sentence -

    If GW was alive, would he have chopped down the tree?
    If GW had been alive, would he have chopped down the tree?


    Apply the argument to another state, being awake.

    What's the 2nd conditional equivalent of If she's awake, she'll see it? If she was awake, she would see it can be applied to the idea of her being awake in the future, it seems to me, so I found the wrong grammatical reason for my objection to the sentence about the grandfather's death (1a). I couldn't say it, nevertheless, and sentences like it, concerning death, don't appear much in literature.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Hi Thomas,

    Could you clarify your position? As I understand you, you object to sentences like (1), where the question of someone who is dead is concerned. I don't understand why words like now, still, today could make any difference, except to make clear that the past is not involved.

    (1) If he were still alive, he would … now be being questioned by Scotland Yard. (from the Evening Standard, 1992)

    The sentences below come from grammar books. None of the if clauses refer to the past. Do you have any objections to them?

    (2) It would be a pity if he were to give up now.
    (3) If he loved her, he’d give up his job.
    (4) If he was in love with her, he’d change his job.
    (5) If he were in love with her, he’d change his job.
    (6) If he were here, he would vote for the motion.
    (7) If she were here, she would speak on my behalf.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi Thomas,

    Could you clarify your position? As I understand you, you object to sentences like (1), where the question of someone who is dead is concerned. I don't understand why words like now, still, today could make any difference, except to make clear that the past is not involved.

    (1) If he were still alive, he would … now be being questioned by Scotland Yard. (from the Evening Standard, 1992)

    The sentences below come from grammar books. None of the if clauses refer to the past. Do you have any objections to them?

    (2) It would be a pity if he were to give up now.
    (3) If he loved her, he’d give up his job.
    (4) If he was in love with her, he’d change his job.
    (5) If he were in love with her, he’d change his job.
    (6) If he were here, he would vote for the motion.
    (7) If she were here, she would speak on my behalf.
    Hi E2E4,

    Now, still, today
    , make a difference because I was considering the application of the second conditional to future events. They (with the possible exception of still) discount the case I was considering.

    I'll run briefly through your examples:

    (1) If he were still alive, he would … now be being questioned… by Scotland Yard. (from the Evening Standard, 1992) - no problem, present.
    (2) It would be a pity if he were to give up now - no problem, future and eventive.
    (3) If he loved her, he’d give up his job - no problem, future and eventive.
    (4) If he was in love with her, he’d change his job - could be future, is concerned with a state other than death.
    (5) If he were in love with her, he’d change his job - ditto.
    (6) If he were here, he would vote for the motion - no problem, present probably, and eventive.
    (7) If she were here, she would speak on my behalf - no problem, present probably, and eventive.

    I'm entirely happy with all of them.

    The one I'm troubled by is death in the future - if he were dead, he would sing the national anthem tomorrow with the rest of us. I can't bring myself to see that as possible. Maybe I'm alone in this.

    Maybe it's a question of logic rather than grammar, because I'm happy with - if he were not dead, he would sing the national anthem tomorrow with the rest of us.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    What is a good source for learning the rules? Most grammar books that I have seen in my area are outdated.
    As far as I can tell, numbered conditionals belong only to the world of English as a foreign language, and as far as I can tell, they represent an oversimplification of the job of the subordinating conjunction if and the job of "conditional" verb forms (would, could, should, might, etc.).

    To learn more about numbered conditionals, look for a grammar book for English as a foreign language, but don't expect such a book to consistently agree with native English speakers' usage or understanding.

    For example, does the term "first conditional" apply to the sentence "If I see him, I will tell him you called" just because this sentence has a simple present in the subordinate clause and a will in the main clause, regardless of whether it refers to a possible future or to my usual practice of telling him you called if I see him? Or would the term "first conditional" apply to any sentence about a possible future, regardless of the forms or tenses used, just because it is about a possible future?

    But as for the original sentence this thread is about, I can say, without attempting to assign a numbered type to it, that it is ambiguous in several ways.

    For example, "If my grandfather was alive today" might be a stand-in for "If my grandfather were alive today", perhaps with a nuanced difference in meaning, or it might mean "If my grandfather was alive earlier today".

    Also, "might have enjoyed" is the "conditional" form as well as the past tense form of "may have enjoyed" and is as ambiguous as "could have enjoyed", which can mean, among other things, "was able to have enjoyed", "had been able to enjoy", or "would be able to have enjoyed".

    In what context did the original sentence arise? Are we looking at a garden full of weeds? Are we trying to solve a mystery, for example by trying to work out whether the grandfather died today or last night?
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The one I'm troubled by is death in the future - if he were dead, he would sing the national anthem tomorrow with the rest of us. I can't bring myself to see that as possible. Maybe I'm alone in this.
    I don't see any grammatical difference in this sentence from If he were here, he would sing the anthem tomorrow with the rest of us. It's no different from Imagine he was alive. What would he do?

    If a herd of elephants had been slaughtered near a village, why could the villagers not say If the elephants were alive, they would eat up our coming harvest?

    If a business was failing, why not say If my father were alive, he would succeed in saving the company from bankruptcy?

    I may be misunderstanding your objections, Thomas, but I don't see how grammar comes into it.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think we'll just have to disagree, E2e4. I made the point that the grammar was identical; that's why I thought it must be a problem of logic.

    As for the elephants, I'd more naturally shift them into the 3rd conditional - had we not shot the elephants, they would have eaten up our harvest.

    I couldn't make your sentence work for a potential future. Those were real elephants which were then dead. The prospective elephants of the future, in the construction I'm considering, wouldn't be interesting if they were not alive, so one wouldn't use your sentence.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I don't see any grammatical difference in this sentence from If he were here, he would sing the anthem tomorrow with the rest of us. It's no different from Imagine he was alive. What would he do?

    If a herd of elephants had been slaughtered near a village, why could the villagers not say If the elephants were alive, they would eat up our coming harvest?

    If a business was failing, why not say If my father were alive, he would succeed in saving the company from bankruptcy?

    I may be misunderstanding your objections, Thomas, but I don't see how grammar comes into it.
    I agree. I could use any of these sentences.

    I read them as follows:

    Present tense: If he is here, he will sing the anthem tomorrow with the rest of us.
    Past tense: If he was here, he would sing the anthem tomorrow with the rest of us. [ambiguous as to which "tomorrow" is meant]
    Irrealis: Were he here, he would sing the anthem tomorrow with the rest of us.
    Alternative for irrealis: If he were here, he would sing the anthem tomorrow with the rest of us.

    Present tense: If the elephants are alive, they will eat up our coming harvest.
    Past tense: If the elephants were alive, they would eat up our coming harvest.
    Irrealis
    : Were the elephants alive, they would eat up our coming harvest.
    Alternative for irrealis: If the elephants were alive, they would eat up our coming harvest. [same form as past tense]
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Hi. I have read this thread twice but I’m still a bit confused.
    As far as the op example is concerned, it seems that some advocate conditional perfect “might have enjoyed” while some others “might enjoy”. So this sentence is debatable. To me, I’d use either 1) “If my grandfather was/were alive today, he would enjoy that”, or 2) “If my grandfather had been alive today, he would have enjoyed that”.
    I think that “If my grandfather was alive today, he would have enjoyed that” only makes sense if it is intended as a third conditional, which is equivalent to 2).
    Does my thinking make sense?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You have every right to be confused! So am I.

    Note that in giving the version you would use of the OP statement, you’ve (instinctively perhaps?) changed the modal verb.

    Original version:
    If my grandfather was alive today, he might have enjoyed looking after our garden. :confused: :thumbsdown:

    Standard version:
    If my grandfather had been alive today, he would have enjoyed that. :tick: :thumbsup:

    I can’t find that original version anywhere online (except with regard to this thread), which I find very suspicious. I wonder whether the person who started the thread made it up and inadvertently sent everyone on a wild goose chase?
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thanks for your response.
    I can’t find that original version anywhere online (except with regard to this thread), which I find very suspicious. I wonder whether the person who started the thread made it up and inadvertently sent everyone on a wild goose chase?
    The original example is from Advanced Grammar in Use by Martin Hewings, page 239, as the OP said. But is the original version necessarily bad? I think we can treat it as an equivalent of the standard type 3 conditional “If my grandfather had been alive today, he might have enjoyed that.” I think of it this way because I have read this thread (Would have been vs would be) previously and learned that this pattern “if+simple past+conditional perfect” can also be treated as a type 3 conditional.
     

    Vronsky

    Senior Member
    Russian - Russia
    "He would have enjoyed" - you know for sure that he would have enjoyed
    "He might have enjoyed" - knowing your grandfather, you assume that he might have enjoyed
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    [...]
    I have...learned that this pattern “if+simple past+conditional perfect” can also be treated as a type 3 conditional.
    I don't think this is a fair conclusion. I think you've been misled, Thetazuo.

    I don't see If my grandfather had been alive today as something I could correctly say. The had been takes us to a moment in the past; it's inconsistent with today or tomorrow.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you for the response.
    I don't think this is a fair conclusion. I think you've been misled, Thetazuo.
    Or I may have misrepresented teddy’s idea?:confused:
    The had been takes us to a moment in the past; it's inconsistent with today or tomorrow.
    I’ve just found this example, which shows that past perfect can be used with today:
    9DB7422A-7A5B-43A0-B1FD-92C48329EC0D.jpeg

    Or “had been” introduces a state rather than an action, so it can only refer to a moment in the past?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I’ve just found this example, which shows that past perfect can be used with today:
    View attachment 32636
    Or “had been” introduces a state rather than an action, so it can only refer to a moment in the past?
    1. The previous example was stative.

    2. Your unacknowledged quote talks of a meeting today. For me this clearly, because of the had spoken, took place earlier in the day, ie. in the past. So I'm inclined to believe that this talk of an 'extended present' indicated by the past perfect is unsound.

    3. I'm not happy with your use of the verb to show, Tetazuo, in a discussion. One can only show things that are true, so to suggest or to state would be less contentious.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If your father had spoken at the meeting today, he would have rehearsed his speech in front of me yesterday.

    Let’s be honest… the above is a dreadful sentence that no one in their right mind would ever use — unless to make a point in an academic book about conditionals. However, what we lesser mortals might say would be:

    If your father had been going to / had intended to speak at the meeting today, he would have rehearsed his speech in front of me yesterday.
    Why does this work and the other one not? Because despite the fact that no verb tense goes further back in time than the past perfect, that does effectively backshift the hypothesis in the if-clause (that he had intended to speak) to a time before the action described in the main clause (i.e. rehearsing the speech yesterday).
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you all. I see.
    I don't see If my grandfather had been alive today as something I could correctly say. The had been takes us to a moment in the past; it's inconsistent with today or tomorrow.
    c. If they had been alive now they would have been horrified. [doubly remote]
    Original version:
    If my grandfather was alive today, he might have enjoyed looking after our garden. :confused: :thumbsdown:

    Standard version:
    If my grandfather had been alive today, he would have enjoyed that. :tick: :thumbsup:
    After reading this I’m confused. Whether or not can we use “had been” to refer to present? :confused:
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. So as to this sentence "If my grandfather was alive today, he would/might have enjoyed looking after our garden.", can we treat it as a type 3 conditional, which is equivalent to "If my grandfather had been alive today, he would/might have enjoyed looking after our garden."?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you. So as to this sentence "If my grandfather was alive today, he would/might have enjoyed looking after our garden.", can we treat it as a type 3 conditional, which is equivalent to "If my grandfather had been alive today, he would/might have enjoyed looking after our garden."?
    No. I've already responded to this question.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top