pluperfect subjunctive

unprimesuspect

Member
US
Japanese
Hello everyone. A newbie here.

My roommate and I had a discussion on subjunctive mood a few days ago; since then, this has been really bothering me. Anyhow, his point was as follows:

Present subjunctive: 1) If I were him, I would clean this room.

Pluperfect subjunctive: 2) If I had been him, I would have cleaned this room by yesterday.

What I am really confused about is determining the correct tense of the main clause. What if I put an extra 'had' in there?:

3) If I had been him, I would have had cleaned this room by yesterday.

Is there a difference in meaning or is #3 simply an incorrect sentence?

I'm also wondering, what is the difference, if any, between:

4) If he had been faithful, we would be together right now.

and

5) if he had been faithful, we would have been together (meaning we would be together right now).


They both sound correct to me. More I think about this, more my head hurts. :confused: :( Please help!
 
  • Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Present subjunctive: 1) If I were him, I would clean this room.:tick:

    Pluperfect subjunctive: 2) If I had been him, I would have cleaned this room by yesterday.

    What I am really confused about is determining the correct tense of the main clause. What if I put an extra 'had' in there?:

    3) If I had been him, I would have had cleaned this room by yesterday.

    Is there a difference in meaning or is #3 simply an incorrect sentence?
    In fact, I believe that both 2) and 3) are incorrect. You have to use "have had", but the sentence needs to be rearranged ie:

    "If I had been him, I would have had this room cleaned by yesterday."


    I'm also wondering, what is the difference, if any, between:

    4) If he had been faithful, we would be together right now.

    and

    5) if he had been faithful, we would have been together (meaning we would be together right now).
    4) is correct, 5) is not. If you use the past tense ("would have been together"), it's impossible to mean that you would be together right now.

    And welcome to the forum, Unprimesuspect.
     

    unprimesuspect

    Member
    US
    Japanese
    Thanks for your reply, Dimcl.

    "If I had been him, I would have had this room cleaned by yesterday."

    Hmmm... To me, this sounds I would have asked someone else to clean the room instead of actually cleaning it myself.

    4) is correct, 5) is not. If you use the past tense ("would have been together"), it's impossible to mean that you would be together right now.
    So, how do I suggest a perfect present in the main clause of the pluperfect subjunctive?

    For example, if I want to say:

    6) "If I had been a king, you would have been a queen (for all these years, including now)."


    Would I still say:

    7) "If I had been a been a king, you would be a queen"


    :confused:
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    "If I had been him, I would have had this room cleaned by yesterday."

    Hmmm... To me, this sounds I would had asked someone else to have the room cleaned.
    Why you would take it to mean that someone else would do the cleaning, I'm not really sure. How about this:

    "If I had been him, I would have had weight loss surgery 10 years ago. Now he's so fat, he can hardly move".

    So, how do I suggest a perfect present in the main clause of the pluperfect subjunctive?

    For example, if I want to say:

    6) "If I had been a king, you would have been a queen (for all these years, including now)."


    Would I still say:

    7) "If I had been a been a king, you would be a queen"
    No, you would say it exactly as you did in 6). 7) is wrong because you can't mix tenses. "If I had been a king" is past tense. "You would be a queen" is present tense"

    You may have guessed that I am not a grammarian. I don't know a pluperperfect from my elbow.:)

    If you type "have had" into the WR Dictionary look-up window at the top of the screen, you will find many, many threads on this particular subject. Have fun.
     

    unprimesuspect

    Member
    US
    Japanese
    Hello again, Dimcl! I'm so glad that I have someone to talk to. :) None of my friends is listening to me anymore. I don't blame them though. :eek:

    "I will clean this room."

    To me, this means (most likely) I alone is cleaning the room whereas:

    "I will have this room cleaned."

    means I'm getting it cleaned by someone else. I might help out but I might not.

    "If I had been him, I would have had weight loss surgery 10 years ago. Now he's so fat, he can hardly move".
    This is how I look at the main clause of this sentence:

    "I" = subject
    "would have" = auxiliary verb
    "had" = main verb
    "weight loss surgery" = object
    "10 years ago" = adverb???

    So following the structure in the senence above:

    8) "If I had been him, I would have cleaned this room (by) yesterday."

    "would have" = auxiliary verb
    "cleaned" = main verb
    "this room" = object
    "yesterday" = adverb


    BTW, I think in pluperfect subjunctive, you can mix tenses because you are supposing something about the past that might have affected the present or the past (or both?). At least I got that impression from a previous post on this subject:

    "According my "Bible"(English grammar in use):

    Compare would (do) and would have (done):
    If I had gone to the party last night, I would be (C)tired now.(I am not tired now-present).

    If I had gone to the party last night, I would have met(A) lots of people.(I did not meet lots of people-past)."
    I don't know why I'm obsessing over this it's driving me up the wall.
     

    tinlizzy

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Don't drive yourself up the wall! Try to think of different scenarios.

    If I were him (a messy housekeeper) I would have had the room cleaned. (by someone else)

    If I were him (a person expecting guests) I would have had the room cleaned by today.

    If I were him, I would have (because I'm a messy housekeeper) had the room cleaned.

    If I were him, I would have (because I was expecting guests) had the room cleaned by today.

    Does this make sense? It's that tricky "in what context" again. Who are they and who am I and what are they (we) saying together in a conversation.

    To you: "I will have this room cleaned by..." does mean by someone else because......???
    To me: "I will have this room cleaned by..." means I will clean this room myself because.....it's my house and my responsibility. However, if I won the lottery, it would definately mean by someone else!
     

    Bilbo Baggins

    Senior Member
    American English
    Actually, number 5 is correct. If he had been faithful, we would have been together. There's nothing wrong with that. It's your interpretation of the meaning that's wrong. It doesn't mean that we would be together now......it means we would have been together then.
     

    unprimesuspect

    Member
    US
    Japanese
    Hi tinlizzy :), thank you for your reply.

    "I will have this done by today."

    That does sound like I myself will get it done by today but,

    "I will have this delivered to you by tomorrow."

    That sounds to me like I'm having someone else bring it to you. If I'm delivering it myself, then I'd say:

    "I will deliver this to you by tomorrow."

    But I digress...

    So Bilbo Baggins or anyone else out there, how would I say if he hadn't cheated, we would had been together including back then, now, and inbetween?

    This is what I'm thinking:

    Present subjunctive: If I were a king, you would be a queen.
    (if I am a king now, you will be a queen too.)

    So, what if I want to say if I have been a king all these time, from way back then including up to now and you a queen?

    Isn't that still pluperfect subjunctive?

    8) If I had been a king, you would have been a queen.

    because you are pushing one tense back (have been :arrow: had been) to make it into a subjunctive?

    Or is it:

    9) If I have been a king, you would have been a queen.

    Or is the pluperfect subjunctive not at all compatible with present perfect tense since you are supposing something about the past but never about the present perfect?

    10) I have been a princess all my life and I have been miserable all my life (up to and including right now).

    11) If I had been a princess all my life, I would have been miserable all my life (up to and including right now).

    :confused: That makes sense to me but not to anyone else?

    12) He has never cheated so we have always been together (including now).

    13) If he hadn't cheated, we would have always been together (this can't include the present?).

    I feel like I have a big knot in my head. :(
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Actually, number 5 is correct. If he had been faithful, we would have been together. There's nothing wrong with that.
    Somehow, this doesn't ring true for me - it sounds incomplete. It needs a timeframe that it doesn't currently have ie:

    "If he had been faithful, we would have been together forever" OR
    "If he had been faithful, we would have been together always"

    I could see this working if one changes "been" to something else ie:

    "If he had been faithful, we would have stayed together."

    As a stand-alone sentence, this ("If he had been faithful, we would have been together") doesn't work for me.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Hi tinlizzy :), thank you for your reply.

    Bilbao Baggins or anyone else out there, how would I say if he hadn't cheated, we would had been together including back then, now, and inbetween?


    13) If he hadn't cheated, we would have always been together (this can't include the present?).

    I feel like I have a big knot in my head. :(
    I'm not sure I understand the rest of your post, so I'll stick with the sentence about heart-break.

    13) If he hadn't cheated, we would have always been together. This can't include the present?.

    "Always" may mean "continuously". I might understand #13 to mean that you would have been together continuously in the past, but I wouldn't be sure that you meant to include the present.

    If you use forever, it is clearer that would have been together extends into the present and future:
    If he hadn't cheated, we would have been together forever.​

    The other possibility is to put the second part of the sentence in the present:
    If he hadn't cheated, we would be together. (Or: we would be together now.)​
    This makes it clear that his cheating in the past explains why you aren't together in the present. It is possible to mix the tenses in this kind of conditional sentence.

    If I hadn't been late [past], I wouldn't be behind in my work [present].​

    Just for comparison, here is a sample completely in the present:
    If he weren't an honest person [present], we wouldn't be together [present].​
     

    unprimesuspect

    Member
    US
    Japanese
    Dimcl, thank you for not being put off by my obsessive questioning.

    "We would have stayed together." works much better for me too, but I wanted to see if "would have been together" could work as well (but it doesn't seem to work without a qualifier). The lesson I learned thus far:

    When constructing a pluperfect subjunctive, word the main clause in a way that the time frame is crystal clear to the reader.

    Hi Cagey,

    If he weren't an honest person [present], we wouldn't be together [present].​
    Did you mean "If he were an honest person?" :confused:

    Anyhow, yes, I am pretty convinced that the tense of main clause doesn't have to match that of if clause because what could have happened in the past could easily affect the present:
    14) If you had taken your medicine, you wouldn't be sick right now.
    I was wondering though, can we "suppose" something about the past that could have continued to the present?:
    15) If I had been a better wife, you would have been much happier in this marriage. (But I wasn't and you were miserable.)
    Does that sentence strictly talk only about the past? Can't we interpret that those conditions would have continued to the present?
    I am (present)
    If I were (subjunctive for "I am"; counterfactual)
    I have been (present perfect)
    I had been (past perfect)
    If I had been (pluperfect subjunctive; counterfactual for which one of the above???)
    I guess what I'm really asking is, does the pluperfect subjunctive apply to the present perfect tense or the past perfect tense or both?

    I hate to be all over the place but if I want to refer only to the past using pluperfect subjunctive, how would I do that?:
    16) If I had been a better wife, you would have been (or is it had been?) much happier when we were married but there isn't much point to talking about it now. We have been divorced for more than 10 years.
    As you can see, I'm still searching for a grammatical epiphany. Any help is much appreciated...
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi, unprimesuspect, and welcome to the forum.

    Contrary-to-fact conditionals are complicated, and ambiguities are common. I am not even sure how to explain the meaning of such things, but fortunately you already understand the idea. A contrary-to-fact conditional sentence means the same as an indicative conditional sentence except that the thing being “assumed” is known to be false. That is not quite a logical statement I just made, but I see you get the idea because you say:
    This is what I'm thinking:

    Present subjunctive: If I were a king, you would be a queen.
    (if I am a king now, you will be a queen too.)
    I offer two possible interpretations [in brackets] similar to what you have (in parentheses):

    If I were a king, you would be a queen.
    [You will be a queen since I am a king.]
    [You are a queen since I am a king.]

    Each of these interpretations has its place:

    If I were a king today, you would be a queen tomorrow.
    [You will be a queen tomorrow since I am a king today.]

    If I were a king today, you would be a queen today.
    [You are a queen today since I am a king today.]

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    The usual rule for making a conditional out of a present tense is:

    present tense -> “would” + infinitive

    For example:

    “you go” -> “you would go”
    “you are” -> “you would be”

    But some verbs follow different rules:

    “you can” (you are able to) -> “you could” (you would be able to) (not “you would can”)
    “you will” -> “you would” (not “you would will”)

    “you do go” -> “you would go” (not “you would do go”)
    (cf. “you do something” -> “you would do something”)

    “you will go” -> “you would go”
    (cf. “you (do) go” -> you would go”)

    “must (be so)” (is so, I surmise) -> “would (be so)” (not “would must (be so)”)
    “you should” (you possibly need to) -> “you should” (you would possibly need to) (not “you would should”)
    “you could” (you might be able to) -> “you could” (you would possibly be able to) (not “you would could”)
    “you would” -> “you would” (not “you would would”)

    In other words, “you (do/will/would) go” -> “you would go”. That’s four different interpretations for “would go”.

    Past tenses are treated as if they were present perfects, and that generates even more ambiguity:

    “you went” -> “you would have gone”
    (cf. “you have gone” -> “you would have gone”)

    “you were able to go” -> “you would have been able to go”
    (cf. “you have been able to go” -> “you would have been able to go”)

    This too can lead to multiple interpretations:

    If I had been a king, you could have been a queen
    [You are able to have been a queen since I have been a king]
    [You have been able to be a queen since I have been a king]
    [You were able to be a queen since I was a king]
    [You might have been able to be a queen since I was a king]
    [You were possibly able to be a queen since I was a king]

    Now let’s look at your sample main clauses:
    Hello everyone. A newbie here.

    My roommate and I had a discussion on subjunctive mood a few days ago; since then, this has been really bothering me. Anyhow, his point was as follows:

    Present subjunctive: This is not standard terminology, but I see what you mean.
    1) If I were him, I would clean this room.
    [I will clean this room.] So far, so good.

    Pluperfect subjunctive: This is standard terminology, but misleading to me. I still see what you mean.
    2) If I had been him, I would have cleaned this room by yesterday.
    [I cleaned this room by yesterday.]

    I see why you are feeling confused. Because of the phrase “by yesterday”, we have to reject both “I will have cleaned this room.” and “I have cleaned this room.” as possible interpretations. Even the interpretation we have left sounds a little peculiar, though it must be correct.


    What I am really confused about is determining the correct tense of the main clause. What if I put an extra 'had' in there?:

    3) If I had been him, I would have had cleaned this room by yesterday.
    ?[I ((will) have) had cleaned this room by yesterday.]

    Is there a difference in meaning or is #3 simply an incorrect sentence?

    Definitely an incorrect sentence because of the two past participles in a row, but I understand the desperation that led to it.
    In fact, I believe that both 2) and 3) are incorrect. You have to use "have had", but the sentence needs to be rearranged ie:

    "If I had been him, I would have had this room cleaned by yesterday."
    [I had this room cleaned by yesterday.]
    This works, since “had” is now a verb in its own right rather than an auxiliary for “cleaned”, but I agree that it does suggest having someone else clean the room. But leaving out two letters (“ed” on “cleaned”), we can eliminate that issue:

    If I had been him, I would have had this room clean (by) yesterday.
    [I had this room clean (by) yesterday.]

    I'm also wondering, what is the difference, if any, between:

    4) If he had been faithful, we would be together right now.
    [If he has been faithful, we must be together right now.]

    and

    5) if he had been faithful, we would have been stayed together (meaning we would be together right now).
    [If he has been faithful, we have been/stayed together.] Note the difference in meaning between "stayed" and "been".

    They both sound correct to me. More I think about this, more my head hurts. :confused: :( Please help!
    How’s your head now?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Hi Cagey,

    Did you mean "If he were an honest person?" :confused:

    Anyhow, yes, I am pretty convinced that the tense of main clause doesn't have to match that of if clause because what could have happened in the past could easily affect the present:
    14) If you had taken your medicine, you wouldn't be sick right now.
    I was wondering though, can we "suppose" something about the past that could have continued to the present?:
    15) If I had been a better wife, you would have been much happier in this marriage. (But I wasn't and you were miserable.)
    Does that sentence strictly talk only about the past? Can't we interpret that those conditions would have continued to the present?
    I am (present)
    If I were (subjunctive for "I am"; counterfactual)
    I have been (present perfect)
    I had been (past perfect)
    If I had been (pluperfect subjunctive; counterfactual for which one of the above???)
    I guess what I'm really asking is, does the pluperfect subjunctive apply to the present perfect tense or the past perfect tense or both?
    16) If I had been a better wife, you would have been (or is it had been?) much happier when we were married but there isn't much point to talking about it now. We have been divorced for more than 10 years.
    As you can see, I'm still searching for a grammatical epiphany. Any help is much appreciated...
    Did you mean "If he were an honest person?" :confused:
    (1) No, I was reversing the situation from the one you were describing. I'm afraid that made the example confusing. I apologize.

    To clarify: "If he weren't an honest person, we wouldn't be together."
    means "He is an honest person, [so] we are together."

    (2) One problem you are having (I think) is that it is often not clear when the perfect tense takes place.

    For instance: "She has gone to England."
    This may mean that she has gone and is there now.
    But I also might simply mean that she has visited at some time England in the past.
    You would not know which I meant unless you had more information.
    Therefore, context is needed to know whether the action is over with, or is still going on. Context is what you have provided in your sentences, in the phrases I have underlined. I think you have the right idea.

    15) If I had been a better wife, you would have been much happier in this marriage. (But I wasn't and you were miserable.)

    16) If I had been a better wife, you would have been much happier when we were married.

    (You will not use ( would had been,)​
    Note: I see that Forero has given a more complete explanation while I was composing this. I will post this anyway, in case my comments on the present perfect are useful.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Dimcl, thank you for not being put off by my obsessive questioning.

    "We would have stayed together." works much better for me too, but I wanted to see if "would have been together" could work as well (but it doesn't seem to work without a qualifier). The lesson I learned thus far:

    When constructing a pluperfect subjunctive, word the main clause in a way that the time frame is crystal clear to the reader.

    Hi Cagey,



    Did you mean "If he were an honest person?" :confused:

    Anyhow, yes, I am pretty convinced that the tense of main clause doesn't have to match that of if clause because what could have happened in the past could easily affect the present:
    14) If you had taken your medicine, you wouldn't be sick right now.
    I was wondering though, can we "suppose" something about the past that could have continued to the present?:
    15) If I had been a better wife, you would have been much happier in this marriage. (But I wasn't and you were miserable.)
    Does that sentence strictly talk only about the past? Can't we interpret that those conditions would have continued to the present?
    I am (present)
    If I were (subjunctive for "I am"; counterfactual)
    I have been (present perfect)
    I had been (past perfect)
    If I had been (pluperfect subjunctive; counterfactual for which one of the above???)
    I guess what I'm really asking is, does the pluperfect subjunctive apply to the present perfect tense or the past perfect tense or both?

    I hate to be all over the place but if I want to refer only to the past using pluperfect subjunctive, how would I do that?:
    16) If I had been a better wife, you would have been (or is it had been?) much happier when we were married but there isn't much point to talking about it now. We have been divorced for more than 10 years.
    As you can see, I'm still searching for a grammatical epiphany. Any help is much appreciated...
    The “if/were/had/should” part of this type of sentence has similar issues as the “would/should/could” part, but it too is prone to ambiguity – and there are multiple ways to say the same thing in the subordinate clause:

    “I go” -> “If I went”(1) / ”If I were to go”(2) / ”If I should go”(3) / ”Were I to go”(4) / ”Should I go”(5)

    (1) This might also be past indicative rather than subjunctive, even if the first verb in the main clause is “would”.
    (2) Some native speakers would say “If I was to go” with a subjunctive meaning, but others object to this usage (because of the possible ambiguity and the need to rethink the meaning in the middle of the sentence).
    (3) “Should” is ambiguous since it could be subjunctive of "shall".
    (4) This and (2) are ambiguous in that they are as likely to mean “if I am to go” as simply “if I go”.
    (5) There is a remote chance that this could be confused with a question. I witnessed this happening once, when my roommate attempted repeatedly to begin a counterfactual with “should we”, and the person he was talking to kept interrupting with “No, we shouldn’t”. After several rounds of this, I finally offered one of the alternatives (1-4).

    “I can” (I am able to) -> “if I could” (if I were able to)
    “I could” (I might be able to) -> “if I could” (if I might be able to)
    “I will” -> “if I would”
    “I would” -> “if I would”
    “I shall” -> “if I should” / “should I”
    “I should” -> “if I should” / “should I”
    “I must” -> “if I must”

    “I have been” -> “if I had been” / “had I been” / “if I were to have been” / “if I should have been” / “were I to have been” / “should I have been” [/ (nonstandard) "if I'd have been"]
    “I was” -> “if I had been” / etc.
    “I had been” -> “if I had been” / etc.

    Notice that “I have been”, “I was”, and “I had been” all lead to the same 6 (or so) choices.

    14) If you had taken your medicine (yet), you wouldn't be sick right now.
    [You are sick right now because you have not taken your medicine (yet).]

    14’) If you had taken your medicine yet/sooner, you wouldn’t have been sick last year.
    You were sick last year because you had not taken your medicine yet.

    In your sentence 16 (about the wife), “when we were married” sets the time for both her being a wife and his being (un)happy, so there is no need to force one to an earlier time. It makes no difference to the tenses whether it was just yesterday or ten years ago, and 16 is equivalent to 15.
     
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