might have pissed himself

Discussion in 'English Only' started by thetazuo, Jan 23, 2018.

  1. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Hi, everyone. I have just read such a sentence in Game of Thrones: "He was so scared he might have pissed himself all over again, but the cold was in him, a cold so savage that his bladder felt frozen solid." (#1)

    This reminds me of this sentence “He’s dead!” Joffrey sounded so proud and happy you might have thought he’d skinned Robb Stark himself"? (#2)
    I think both sentences express the idea of "imagined reaction", i.e. the author is imagining a possible reaction that might have happened but didn't actually happen.
    In #1, the author is imagining his reaction; in #2 the author is imagining the readers' reaction.

    Am I right?
    Thank you.
     
  2. Barque Senior Member

    India
    Tamil
    The sentence on Joffrey means that he sounded so proud and happy that the listener would have had good reason to think he'd skinned Stark himself.
    This sentence means it was very possible he would have pissed himself again from fright, if not for the fact that the cold had affected urine flow.

    If I've understood what you mean by "imagined reaction" correctly, I think it's only the sentence on Joffrey that expresses it (an imagined reaction by anyone listening to Joffrey). The sentence you're asking about in this thread relates to a possibility that almost happened.
     
  3. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    They’re not quite the same:

    In #1, might have = probably would have

    In #2, “you might have thought” is another way of putting the more idiomatic “you could have been excused for thinking”



    cross-posted
     
  4. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I think the first one means If it had not been so cold he might have pissed himself. (I was not personally aware that the cold could have this effect.)

    I think the second one means If you had been there you might have thought ....

    I suppose that you could call this an "imagined reaction".

    But no doubt there are other possible interpretations.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2018
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    This use of "such a + noun" is very old-fashioned and is very rarely used.
    "Such a sentence" = (i) all sentences that are like this one (ii) another sentence that is similar to this one.

    It does not mean "this sentence".
    Yes.
    No. This "you" is the "general you" = someone/anyone/everyone. It is the current form of "one":
    you might have thought he’d skinned Robb Stark himself" = one might have thought he’d skinned Robb Stark himself"
     
  6. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you all.
     
  7. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    The roar of the flames streaming far and wide mingled with the groans of the falling victims and owing to the height of the hill and the mass of the burning pile, one would have thought the whole city was ablaze. And then the din—nothing more deafening or appalling could be conceived than that. There were the war cries of the Roman legions sweeping onward, the howls of the rebels encircled by fire and swords, the rush of the people who, cut off above, fled panic-stricken only to fall into the arms of the foe, and their shrieks as they met their fate, blended with lamentations and wailing [of those in the city]. Transjordan and the surrounding mountains contributed their echoes, deepening the din. You would have thought the Temple hill was boiling over from its base, being everywhere one mass of flame. (Jerusalem The Biography)

    Context: the Roman army are storming Jerusalem and set the city on fire.

    Hi. I have just read this text. Do the two bold parts express the idea "imagined reaction", i.e. the author is imagining one's reaction?

    Thank you. Sorry for quoting too much. But if I remove some of them, some important information might be lost.
     
  8. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    I suppose that in each case it means that We know as a scientific fact that this perception was untrue. But if you had been there you would have thought ... So I suppose "imagined (and inaccurate) reaction" is a possible way of seeing it.
     
  9. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    In both cases you could replace the text in bold with “it seemed as though” or (better) “it was as if”.
     
  10. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you for your great ideas!
     
  11. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Hi. Everyone. Can I ask some questions about the pissed example?
    First, can we say "he could have pissed himself" in that context?
     
  12. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
  13. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, PaulQ. That's a bit surprising. You seem to suggest that when we use "could have" to emphasize feelings, "could have" can indicate actual possibility that he/she could have done that. But I thought it was the other way around. I mean, if we just say "He was so scared he could have pissed himself", usually there is no possibility that he could have pissed himself ---- "could have" just serve as an emphasis on how scared he was. Right?
     
  14. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I am surprised that you are surprissed - your question was
    It was not "and does it mean exactly the same thing?"

    Roughly:
    He was so scared, he could have pissed himself -> It would have been possible for him to piss himself.
    "He was so scared, he might have pissed himself" -> There was a chance of his pissing himself."/In other circumstances, it was possible that he would have pissed himself.
     
  15. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you again. I thought "could have" and might have" meant the same thing in this context.
    But if we take the sentence out of context, then "He was so scared he could/might have pissed himself" usually indicates no possibility that he could/might have pissed himself, right?
     
  16. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    It means he, 100%, did not piss himself.
     
  17. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. I know he didn't piss himself. I mean without context, it doesn't express actual possibility that he could/might have pissed himself (unrealized possibility) but just serves as an emphasis on how scared he was, right? (which is true for both "might have" and "could have")
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  18. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    Yes, the clause is adverbial, modifying "scared" - "He was very scared."
     
  19. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    “He was so scared, he could have pissed himself.” This heavily implies that he didn’t.

    “He was so scared, he might have pissed himself.” In the right context, “he might have” could mean it’s possible that he did!
     
  20. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, PaulQ. I think this is true for all cases with "could/might have" when someone's feelings are referred to.
    Right?
    For example, in "I was so angry I could/might have killed him!", the modal part can have nothing to do with actual possibility about my killing him but just serves as an emphasis. But in certain context, in this example, "could have" can mean "it would have been possible for me to kill him if ..." and "might have" can mean there was a chance of my killing him. Right?
     
  21. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you, lingobingo. But in the right context, "could have" can also mean "it would have been possible ... if", as in the op context.
     
  22. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Yes, if you read could simply as the past tense of can, that does mean that it was possible. But, perhaps because of the ambiguity, the implication is still that it didn’t happen.
     
  23. thetazuo

    thetazuo Senior Member

    China
    Chinese - China
    Thank you. Then how about my thinking in post 20?
     

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