so that

mimi2

Senior Member
vietnam vietnamese
I have three sentences applying to the contruction "so that"
1. He spoke very loudly so that everyone heard him.
2. He spoke very loudly so that everyone would hear him.
3. He spoke very loudly so that everyone could hear him.
I think the first doesn't make sense. It is wrong.
I don't know what the usage of "would" and "could" is.
Thanks
 
  • tphuong122002

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese Vietnam
    To be more specific, sentence 2 denotes that the speaker wanted to make others hear what he was saying, while sentence 3 suggests that the speaker wanted to help others hear what he was saying. Agree?
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    I have three sentences applying to the contruction "so that"
    1. He spoke very loudly so that everyone heard him.
    2. He spoke very loudly so that everyone would hear him.
    3. He spoke very loudly so that everyone could hear him.
    I think the first doesn't make sense. It is wrong. No, it is correct.
    I don't know what the usage of "would" and "could" is.
    Thanks

    All three sentences are correct as written. The first makes sense if you are thinking about a specific time or event in the past: (Yesterday,) he spoke very loudly (when he was in the restaurant) so that everyone heard him! These details make the sentence clearer, but the sentence was correct even without them.

    In sentence 2, the use of "would" is simply the past of "He speaks very loudly so that everyone will hear him."

    In sentence 3, the use of "could" is simply the past of "He speaks very loudly so that everyone can hear him."
     

    mimi2

    Senior Member
    vietnam vietnamese
    Joelline.
    Now I realize the first sentence is right too.
    Please tell me when I use "would", when I use "could".
    Did tphuong explain correctly?
     

    Joelline

    Senior Member
    American English
    Mimi,

    I thought I had explained them in post #5. In this context, "would" is the past of "will" and "could" is the past of "can." If you know how to use "will" and "can," then you know how to use "would" and "could" here.

    I would generally agree with tphuong's explanation.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Mimi,

    I thought I had explained them in post #5. In this context, "would" is the past of "will" and "could" is the past of "can." If you know how to use "will" and "can," then you know how to use "would" and "could" here.

    I would generally agree with tphuong's explanation.

    Hi, Mimi.

    Would and could are conditional, not past.

    The first sentence could be stretched to mean what Joelline says, but most native speakers would refrain from making a sentence the way it was written in the first post. If Joelline's meaning were desired, they would probably say: "He spoke very loudly, and everyone heard him."

    I agree too that tphuong's explanation of the difference between would and could was correct, except that I wouldn't say "help others hear," I'd say "make it possible for others to hear." But the meaning would be the same, essentially (my version vs. tphuong's).
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Would and could are conditional, not past.
    In many contexts, yes -- but in this context they are the past tense forms of will and can, respectively. There is nothing conditional about them.

    He is speaking very loudly so that everyone will hear him.
    He spoke very loudly so that everyone would hear him.

    He is speaking very loudly so that everyone can hear him.
    He spoke very loudly so that everyone could hear him.

    Analogously,

    I assume that you will go to the party.
    I assumed that you would go to the party.

    I can speak French.
    Ten years ago, I could speak French.
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Elroy,

    Although I rarely disagree with you, this is an exception.

    Most transformational grammarians still claim what you and Joelline have posted, and indeed, when you look at that piece of evidence you've offered (which is the only point that supports the claim, by the way), it seems almost intuitively obvious. But there is a lot more to it than that, and when you consider all the evidence together, the claim becomes quite weak. I think I can demonstrate to you quite convincingly that modals are tenseless auxiliaries, but it's rather a complicated argument and one I'll have to set aside some time for -- hopefully this weekend. (Or perhaps one of our esteemed colleagues can interject the argument now -- I'm sure I'm not the only one here familiar with it.)

    coiffe
     

    hly2004

    Banned
    chinese
    I think when it's treated as the past tense of "can" it means "be able to", and when it's treated as modal word, it means "is possible". Therefore, different interpretations could result in different meanings of the sentence. The same idea applies to "will" and "would". That is, "would" has its own seperate meanings in addition to functioning as the past form of "will".
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Ten years ago, I could speak French, but now I cannot (speak French). :)

    I think it's pretty clear that in this context "could speak" is the past tense version of "can speak." The change from a present tense meaning to a past tense meaning is caused by changing the modal verb from "can" to "could." That's all I was trying to say.

    Either way, "could" is not a conditional in this sentence. :)
     

    coiffe

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Ten years ago, I could speak French, but now I cannot (speak French). :)

    I think it's pretty clear that in this context "could speak" is the past tense version of "can speak." The change from a present tense meaning to a past tense meaning is caused by changing the modal verb from "can" to "could." That's all I was trying to say.

    Either way, "could" is not a conditional in this sentence. :)

    This was my mistake, to refer to those two terms as "conditional." They are modals. I was moving pretty fast through these posts and I believe the reason for my error is that modals are so often found in conditional structures. I made the connection in my mind and typed the wrong term. But it was already corrected in my next post.

    That said, I had promised to go through the argument that modals are tenseless auxiliaries when I had a little more time (see post #10). I've reviewed some of the arguments again and decided this is really beyond the scope of this forum -- and I'm really sure it wouldn't be helpful to Mimi. The main argument is that the historical past and present described by Joelline and Elroy have, since Chomsky, given way to a more modern understanding of modals as being tenseless. (Not that everyone would agree to that -- not at all.) It's easy to show numerous examples of this, but to fully revisit the argument and its applications (so that inevitably one would never say any longer, except as a historical note, that "would" is the past tense of "will", or "could" the past tense of "can"), and to examine how the historical forms have evolved into something else entirely, is just too big a subject. You have to get into epistemic and metaphysical temporalities and a whole host of linguistic terminologies that put most people to sleep, even though the understanding at the end of it is worth the trouble.

    So I'll just mention several authors here, and those who are interested might Google them or go to a research library and look them up: Richard Teschner, Dick Oehrle, and Marianne Celce-Murcia are three that I have read.

    The topic is really interesting if for no other reason than it shows how very experienced and scholarly linguists can disagree on some of the most fundamental and apparently self-evident aspects of a language (English).
     
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