The evaluation time of should in past tense

cheerfulscience

Senior Member
Turkish
I think I cracked it this time. I wonder what native speakers' intuition is on this. I would like to know if in the first part "should (ought to) study more" expresses a past obligation to study more but in the second a present one so it needs to be changed into "should have (ought to have) studied more" to show a past obligation. In other words, could you please tell me at what time the obligations "should" expresses in the following seem to you to be? The sentences are of my own making.

1- As a teacher, education had always been an important part of my life and I took great pleasure in teaching something new. Later on, however, I had developed a taste for challenges, so I wanted [to have] students who should (ought to) study more [in the past or at the present?].

2-...so I had students who should (ought to) study more [at the present or in the past?].

3- ...so I had students who should have (ought to have) studied more [at the past time point when I had them].

Thank you so much for your time
 
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  • Florentia52

    Modwoman in the attic
    English - United States
    I'm sorry, but I don't completely understand what you're trying to say with your sentences. It sounds as though you're contrasting teaching something new with teaching students who ought to study more. Can you explain, using other words, the point you're trying to make?
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Why 'had developed'? I'd use the past simple. And I wouldn't use 'should /ought to' in your sentences. Again, I'd use the past simple (students who studied) as otherwise they make little sense to me. Unfortunately, that doesn't help you understand how 'should' is used. Maybe you could quote some real sentences and explain what you mean a little better, as to honest I don't understand your question ?
     

    cheerfulscience

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    I'm sorry, but I don't completely understand what you're trying to say with your sentences. It sounds as though you're contrasting teaching something new with teaching students who ought to study more. Can you explain, using other words, the point you're trying to make?
    I wrote the first half to give a certain context. The idea I am trying to convey is that I enjoyed teaching but later came to enjoy dealing with lazy students, too, who should have studied more, and decided to engage with them.

    My question is basically at what time does the obligation to study more on the students' part seem to you to be.

    Why 'had developed'? I'd use the past simple. And I wouldn't use 'should /ought to' in your sentences. Again, I'd use the past simple (students who studied) as otherwise they make little sense to me. Unfortunately, that doesn't help you understand how 'should' is used. Maybe you could quote some real sentences and explain what you mean a little better, as to honest I don't understand your question ?
    The following are from "On the proper treatment of tense" by Stechow

    Of "Bill had a student that ought to study more", he says that in accordance with the QR convention which means "the movement index created by QR is always different from the distinguished index O.", "this correctly expresses that Bill's student has the obligation now".

    However, if the modal is used in an intensional context, as in "John believed that he ought to study more", then its evaluation time shifts back to the intensional domain's reference time and not the speech time.

    In the first part, to want is an intensional verb so it must shift the evaluation time of should to the past time. In the second, to have is not an intensional verb so it should not have this effect and leave the evaluation time of should at the speech time (the present); and accordingly, should must br changed into should have to refer back to the past.

    In short, if I understand all this correctly, in the first part should must represent a past, in the second a present, and in the third again a past obligation. I wonder what time as natives the obligations expressed by should in these sentences seem to you to be. The sentences may sound strange and there are certainly more idiomatic ways to express the same thought but I need to know how should sounds to your intuition.

    Thanks
     

    cheerfulscience

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    If you are asking if I agree with Stechow's evaluation, the answer is yes.
    So if I may put my sentences in a very simple form for brevity's sake,

    1- I had a student who ought to study more.

    2- I had a student who ought to have studied more.

    3- I wanted a student who ought to study more.

    The obligation to study "ought to" expresses in these sentences is at the present in the first sentence but in the past in the second and the third. The first indicates present obligation, the second and the third past obligation Correct?

    Thank you for your patience
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    If you are asking if I agree with Stechow's evaluation, the answer is yes.
    I think, however, that Stechow uses unnatural sentences in order to make points about grammar.
    So if I may put my sentences in a very simple form for brevity's sake,
    I'd like to put your sentences into a form that a native speaker would use, but I'm not entirely sure what they mean.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    1- I had a student who ought to study more.

    2- I had a student who ought to have studied more.

    3- I wanted a student who ought to study more.
    I think I'm getting the idea that Stechow is getting at.
    But the problem with modal verbs is that they can quickly change the nuance of what you're saying.
    I'm using 'should' because I'm not much of an ought-to person:

    1a. I had a student who should study more.
    Yes, 'should study' seems to express present tense or a general truth. But without supporting context it is strange because I cannot easily make a mental connection between simple past 'had' and present tense 'should'.

    2a. I had a student who should have studied more.
    'Should have studied' clearly expresses the past, but first and foremost it expresses the idea that he didn't study as hard as he should have.
    This is not quite the same as "I had a student who was obliged to study more."

    3a. I wanted a student who should study more.
    This sounds fine for me and 'should study' refers to the time of my wanting such a student and the time thereafter.
    But now 'should study' does not only express obligation, it can also express a prediction based on my intention.
     

    cheerfulscience

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    I think I'm getting the idea that Stechow is getting at.
    But the problem with modal verbs is that they can quickly change the nuance of what you're saying.
    I'm using 'should' because I'm not much of an ought-to person:

    1a. I had a student who should study more.
    Yes, 'should study' seems to express present tense or a general truth. But without supporting context it is strange because I cannot easily make a mental connection between simple past 'had' and present tense 'should'.

    2a. I had a student who should have studied more.
    'Should have studied' clearly expresses the past, but first and foremost it expresses the idea that he didn't study as hard as he should have.
    This is not quite the same as "I had a student who was obliged to study more."

    3a. I wanted a student who should study more.
    This sounds fine for me and 'should study' refers to the time of my wanting such a student and the time thereafter.
    But now 'should study' does not only express obligation, it can also express a prediction based on my intention.
    Modal verbs are really the bane of English learning! I do not know if there is any category more messy than this...

    Thank you for your reply. Yes, the idea Stechow and Abusch are driving at is that when a tenseless form is not embedded in an intensional time domain, their evaluation time is T0, the speech time. The same pattern goes for subjunctive (counterfactual) conditionals, too.

    1- A man who would be happy if he listened to me (subjunctive)

    2- David was a man who would be happy if he listened to me (subjunctive's truth value lies at the present, meaning it implies the man is not listening to me now. For past tense evaluation time, it should be "David was a man who would have been happy if he'd listened to me)

    3- David imagined a man who would be happy if he listened to me (subjunctive's truth value lies in the past, meaning it implies the man was not listening to me back then)

    Of course this is all theory and must sound weird. I am still trying to wrap my head around the concept of intensionality. So far what I've understood (hopefully) is that the truth evaluation time of tenseless forms lies in the time of the intensional verb because in the intensional context the speaker is talking about an imaginary [not counterfactual] world whereas in the nonintensional context, the speaker is talking about the real world as it is so the evaluation time of tenseless forms is the speech time and not the time of the main clause's verb.

    God please help me. I want to learn this language perfectly. It is my life's passion.

    Thank you for your reply again. I really needed your intuitive confirmation just to be sure.
     
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    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Of course this is all theory and must sound weird. I am still trying to wrap my head around the concept of intensionality.
    :) Yes, it sounds complex and confusing if you haven't heard that type of explanation before. I haven't - and I guess most native speakers haven't actively learned this unless they studied linguistics or a related subject. Most native speakers acquire this skill of correctly interpreting their native language well before they know what the word 'grammar' means.
    My recommendation: Don't try to learn and understand all of it at once by means of rules only. Some of those concepts become subconsciously clearer in the course of practising and being exposed to that language and you will be able to detect and understand every little nuance of what the speaker intends to convey - even if you can't logically explain it with grammar. It worked the same way when you acquired your own native language as a pre-school kid. :cool:
     
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