Use of modal+have+past participle to refer to the future?

thetazuo

Senior Member
Chinese - China
“We both loved Blanche. There would have been room for him in my mother's house. I think the company of poor, simple people would have done his soul a great good. I think he might have learnt from them something that would be very useful to him”

Excerpt from The Moon and Sixpence
W Somerset Maugham

Hi. The context is that Strickland and Stroeve both loved Blanche, who had been the wife of the latter. Now that Blanche was dead, Stroeve didn’t blame Strickland but invited Strickland to go to Stroeve’s home, which was in the countryside, when Stroeve said the quoted sentences to Strickland.

My question is, since Strickland’s going to his home is in the future, why did the author use the structure “modal + have + past participle”, as in the three bold parts?
Thank you.
 
  • grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I assume Strickland rejected Stroeve's invitation or something prevented him from coming. The parts in bold are therefore past hypotheticals.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    :idea:
    Yes, the following text goes “He(Strickland) said he had other fish to fry.”, so Strickland did turn down Stroeve’s offer.
    So these three “modal+have+past participle”s are used to refer to an imagined future which is not to be realized, as in “If Strickland hadn’t refused to come (e.g. yesterday), there would have been room for him in Stroeve’s mother's house ...”, alone the same lines as this example “If the Chinese government hadn't turned this area into a nature reserve last year, the whole herd would have been dead within five years from now.”, right?
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Strickland's going to live in his mother's house was a future possibility in that past time of which he's talking.
    We know that he didn't do this. 'He will be happy there' becomes 'he would have been happy there'.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    How do you know it's in the future? What part of the text tells you that?
    “What did you say to Strickland when you saw him?'
    'I asked him to come with me to Holland.'
    I was dumbfounded. I could only look at Stroeve in stupid amazement.

    Strickland was currently in Paris, and Stroeve asked him to go to Holland, so it was in the future.
    Cross-posted
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Strickland's going to live in his mother's house was a future possibility in that past time of which he's talking.
    We know that he didn't do this. 'He will be happy there' becomes 'he would have been happy there'.
    Thank you. But future in the past uses “would”, not “would have”; and it is used in reported speech, not direct speech, as in “I knew Julie would make dinner.” So I think the op example is more like a counterfactual third conditional than future in the past, unless you see a third conditional as a use of future in the past. (?)
     

    grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    “What did you say to Strickland when you saw him?'
    'I asked him to come with me to Holland.'
    I was dumbfounded. I could only look at Stroeve in stupid amazement.

    Strickland was currently in Paris, and Stroeve asked him to go to Holland, so it was in the future.
    Cross-posted
    Thanks. In that case, I agree with Hermione:
    Strickland's going to live in his mother's house was a future possibility in that past time of which he's talking.
    We know that he didn't do this. 'He will be happy there' becomes 'he would have been happy there'.
    I also agree with this:
    So I think the op example is more like a counterfactual third conditional
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Unrealised future in the past, yes.

    "He will be happy at our house if he comes"

    I told you he would be happy if he came! He did come and he was happy.

    Had he come he would have been happy, but he didn't.
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Thank you both.
    So do you think the op example is the same use as “If the Chinese government hadn't turned this area into a nature reserve last year, the whole herd would have been dead within five years from now.”?
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    So do you think the op example is the same use as “If the Chinese government hadn't turned this area into a nature reserve last year, the whole herd would have been dead within five years from now.”?
    I see that as a standard type III conditional, which presents a scenario effectively reversing what actually happened.

    Because the area was in fact turned into a nature reserve, the possibility of the herd being dead in five years' time in now in the past. :)
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    I see that as a standard type III conditional, which presents a scenario effectively reversing what actually happened.

    Because the area was in fact turned into a nature reserve, the possibility of the herd being dead in five years' time in now in the past. :)
    Thank you, Donny. So this nature reserve example uses “would have” in the same way as the op example, as in “Because Strickland did in fact refuse the offer, the possibility of there being room for him in the speaker’s mother's house is now in the past”. So the op example is also a type III conditional which presents a scenario effectively reversing what actually happened.
    Right?
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think it is easier to put it this way: the type 3 conditional is tenseless. We work out from the context whether the untrue scenario and its consequence are in the past, present or future.

    A good reason for knowing that a scenario is untrue is if it did not happen in the past; but this is not the only possible good reason. "Daddy's taking us to the zoo tomorrow but the tiger is going to be away for the day. If he hadn't been away we would have seen him."

    (I suspect that the type 2 conditional is also tenseless, though it mostly refers to the present or future.)
     
    Last edited:

    loviii

    Senior Member
    russian
    Daddy's taking us to the zoo tomorrow but the tiger is going to be away for the day. If he hadn't been away we would have seen him.
    Could you tell me which of the remaining variants are also appropriate here?
    (1) If he hasn't been away we would see him.
    (2) If he hadn't been away we would see him.
    (3) If he hasn't been away we would have seen him.

    Thanks!
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    Strickland's going to live in his mother's house was a future possibility in that past time of which he's talking.
    We know that he didn't do this. 'He will be happy there' becomes 'he would have been happy there'.
    Hi. Sorry for doing this topic again. But I’m wondering: since all type 3 conditionals are about a future possibility relative to a past time event, aren’t all type 3 conditionals future in the past?
    For example,
    If he hadn’t injured his leg, he would have gone to school.
    This can be also imagined future in the past, can’t it?
    Then the term “imagined future in the past” seems to be rendered pointless. :confused:
     

    newname

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    "Daddy's taking us to the zoo tomorrow but the tiger is going to be away for the day. If he hadn't been away we would have seen him."
    Teddy I don’t understand why you the third conditional. The tiger is going to be away so it is still in the zoo. I was taught to use type 2 conditionals for counterfactual present events. So I would say: ‘if the tiger weren’t away, we would see him’
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    since all type 3 conditionals are about a future possibility relative to a past time event
    I'd hoped you'd have sorted this out now, Thetazuo.

    "All type 3 conditionals are about a future possibility relative to a past time event" is NOT the case.

    Try this British Council site on Third Conditionals: Third conditional

    "This is the way we imagine how things could have been different in the past. If something had been different, something else would have happened. Notice that both the condition and the result are impossible now."
     

    thetazuo

    Senior Member
    Chinese - China
    I'd hoped you'd have sorted this out now, Thetazuo.

    "All type 3 conditionals are about a future possibility relative to a past time event" is NOT the case.

    Try this British Council site on Third Conditionals: Third conditional

    "This is the way we imagine how things could have been different in the past. If something had been different, something else would have happened. Notice that both the condition and the result are impossible now."
    Thank you, TT. Then what do you think is unrealised future in the past? Can a type 3 conditional express that?
    1. If he hadn’t injured his leg, he would have gone to school yesterday. (unrealized past event)
    2. If he hadn’t injured his leg, he would have gone to school today. (unrealized present in the past)
    3. If he hadn’t injured his leg, he would have gone to school tomorrow. (unrealized future in the past)

    Do I understand it correctly?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thank you, TT. Then what do you think is unrealised future in the past? Can a type 3 conditional express that?
    1. If he hadn’t injured his leg, he would have gone to school yesterday. (unrealized past event)
    2. If he hadn’t injured his leg, he would have gone to school today. (unrealized present in the past)
    3. If he hadn’t injured his leg, he would have gone to school tomorrow. (unrealized future in the past)

    Do I understand it correctly?
    Not, in my view.

    I'm not very happy about 2 and 3; I'd probably use the III/II conditional for them.

    That's the form for an imagined or real event in the past with its present result.

    And remember that his not being in a position to go to school tomorrow is a present, not a future result.

    Look at BBC World Service | Learning English | Learn it

    Also, if you believe that all three are correct, how can you say that ALL type III conditionals "are about a future possibility relative to a past time event"? Your example 1. in #19 is a type III conditional which is not about a future possibility.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If he hadn't been away we would have seen him.
    I'm in the camp which doesn't think we could say this of tomorrow, Teddy.

    You can't, I think, have a closed condition in the future, because of the unpredictability of future events.

    I suspect most speakers would use the standard II conditional there: If the tiger was there, we would see him.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    I was taught to use type 2 conditionals for counterfactual present events. So I would say: ‘if the tiger weren’t away, we would see him’
    That's the simplified textbook version. These textbook versions cover the most common usages of conditionals and their description is designed to make learning of the concept as simple and as concise as possible. No good textbook or teacher would dare to claim that usage is limited to conditional 0/1/2/3 - there are always exceptions.

    In teddy's sentence

    "Daddy's taking us to the zoo tomorrow but the tiger is going to be away for the day. If he hadn't been away we would have seen him."
    the child knows that the tiger will not be there the next day and this is an unchangeable fact (in the mind of the child). Since this fact is unchangeable the speaker treats the unfulfillable desire to see the tiger the next day as a thing of the past.
    In simple terms, once a future event is certain and unchangeable, you can talk of it as if it were a past event.

    I just thought of another example that might make things clearer:
    If my dog hadn't died last night, I would have brought him to the lake next weekend.​
    Here the condition (my dog's dying) is an unchangeable fact in the past but my initial plan to bring him to the lake is still in the future. Since the death of the dog is a fact, my plan for the future becomes unfulfillable and it's justifiable to project this event into the past.

    I hope I didn't confuse you with this explanation, it is something that fits very well to my language logic. But if you prefer the explanation that some clauses are tenseless, by all means, stick to that one!

    [x times cross-posted; I'm a slow typer :(]
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If my dog hadn't died last night, I would have brought him to the lake next weekend.
    Interesting example, Manfy, but I couldn't say this.

    For me the III/II conditional is made for circumstances like this and I'd say: If my dog hadn't died last night, I'd be bringing him to the lake next weekend.

    I suspect many natives would use the form you suggest, or some variant of it, but I don't think it's grammatical.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Interesting example, Manfy, but I couldn't say this.

    For me the III/II conditional is made for circumstances like this and I'd say: If my dog hadn't died last night, I'd be bringing him to the lake next weekend.

    I suspect many natives would use the form you suggest, or some variant of it, but I don't think it's grammatical.
    Interesting! The form I mentioned, I've definitely heard and read many times. I couldn't say for sure whether it was AE or BE, but considering mass media, Asian English is probably leaning more towards AE.

    Your sentence "If my dog hadn't died last night, I'd be bringing him to the lake next weekend." works very well for me too, but it does express a bit of a different nuance.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    Hi, manfy. Do you think this example is imagined future in the past?
    Yes, you can think of it that way if you wish. Not everybody may agree with this vew, though.

    It's like putting yourself back in time before the death of the dog (only mentally, of course) and saying/thinking: "Don't die on me, little doggy. I'll rush you to the vet, he'll fix you up and next weekend I will take you to the dog fair at the lake; the one you liked so much last year."
    In this imagined event, "I will take you..." is a plan or a promise for a future activity. Unfortunately the dog dies 5 minutes later and therefore also this plan/promise dies with him. Semantically, it seems perfectly logical to me to change "I will take you" to "I would have taken you" once the dog is dead. It marks the result clause as impossible and therefore counterfactual.

    I suppose Thomas called my sentence 'probably ungrammatical' because of the adverbials of time; the past aspect of 'would have taken' clashes with the future adverbial 'next weekend'.
    The sentence without adverbials, "If my dog hadn't died, I would have taken him to the dog fair at the lake.", is a perfectly normal type 3 conditional.

    If the listener doesn't know when this dog fair takes place, he or she would just assume that it was some event in the past.
    Actually, for the idea expressed in this sentence, it doesn't matter when that dog fair event took place or will take place. Hmm, and that actually works very well with teddy's view of timelessness or tenselessness of this result clause. Interesting!
     
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