When expressing a future action from the viewpoint of the past, English uses the present conditional

mateintwo

Senior Member
Swedish - American English
On the English/Italian threads often discussions take place about the present or past conditional use of would (in future in past constructions). In the English/Italian grammar books they point out: “When expressing a future action from the viewpoint of the past, English uses the present conditional while Italian uses the past conditional.
He said he would come (which in Italian is expressed He said he would have come)”.

However I have my doubts since I think “would” is past tense (indicative or subjunctive) of will.

Let me play around a little with one phase to demonstrate the point.

Yesterday you told me: “Today I will ask about X” / “Today I plan to (want to) ask about X”

She later tells her friend: He told me yesterday he would ask about X/ He told me yesterday he planned (wanted) to ask about X.

Now let’s add: You told me: If I have time I will ask about X

Then: He told me yesterday he would ask about X if he had (the) time/ he planned (wanted) to ask about X if he had the time.

So even adding a conditional sub phrase the words plan and want take the past tense (and I assume will as well expressed as would).

So in this "duck" test: would in the examples above “quacks like duck”.

Only if the first phrase says something like this: If I had the money (impossibility) I would ask about the insurance costs” would becomes truly conditional.
If I had the money I would plan (want) to ask about the insurance costs”

He said if had the money he would have asked about X/ He said if he had the money he would have planned (wanted) to ask about X.

Am I totally off base here or do (some of) you agree would is really past tense not conditional in the early examples???
 
  • Siberia

    Senior Member
    UK-Wales - English
    Let's put it another way. What if the day has gone by and he hasn't asked you about X. What would you say then about the fact that yesterday he told you he was planning to ask you about X?
    I would say in this case:
    Yesterday he told me that he would have asked about X but he hasn't.
     

    mateintwo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - American English
    To go any further we then first have to determine which is right:

    A. Yesterday he told me that he would ask about X but he didn’t
    Or
    B. Yesterday he told me that he would have asked about X but he didn't.

    Any English language professors out there?
    I have just inferred from reading the English-Italian grammar books that A. should be correct in English but I must admit to me it’s a little blurred since B. sounds sort of ok to me (but maybe lacking a hypothetical clause?).

    But again the "duck" test: Yesterday he told me that he planned (wanted) to ask about X but he didn/t.
     

    tantan

    Member
    Bulgaria
    I don't know mateintwo... I love this type of grammar discussion but I can't yet contribute since I do not get the question... Can we really talk about tenses and will? Isn't 'will' just part of a verbial phrase, is it really a verb?
    I'm waiting around for someone more knowledgeable to put the question right, so i can learn something new and maybe contribute:)
     

    mateintwo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - American English
    This is a rather complicated (and judging by the number of responses boring!) issue if you do not have extensive knowledge of English.
    Would is a tricky word since in certain phrases it is often mixed up with the conditional meaning of will while the main meaning is simply: want to, intend to.
     

    Grey Fox

    Senior Member
    UK - English
    "will" and "would" are "modal" verbs, and these can be grouped so that their time relationship is more apparent:

    will > would
    can > could
    shall > should
    and that leads to "ought to", "might" and "may", which deal with aspects of obligation or recommendation or permission, and "must" which is so oblligatory it never changes in time, it's always now.

    But it's further complicated, because "will" doesn't deal with the time relationship so much as to what extent the person has any power or "will" (desire) to affect what still hasn't happened, by making a decision and taking responsibility for doing something. "I'll do that" is expressing that, and is only regarded as "future" because until they actually do it, it hasn't happened yet. But once the person has decided, then during the intervening time until they do it, or not, we or they would say "I'm going to do that" or even "I'm doing that". The latter is most definitely not the "present" as in "I'm writing this message", but an expression of intention, of a decision having been taken.

    The complications with "would" derive from the formulaic usage, in phrases where it's really just a politer form of "want":

    "Would you like a coffee?" or "I'd like a coffee" would be expressed in Spanish, and possibly other languages too, as "Give me" or "I want", which shows how it's just a "formula" for dealing with everyday situations, where politeness and manners are far stronger than any grammatical or tense factors! The important thing is to transfer the idea (what "translation" is all about) rather than treat the words as separate entities with their own individual meaning.

    The formulaic use of "would" does overlap with the true conditional, since the element of personal choice or "will" is being addressed as the "condition" which has to be met, although in many cases there are plenty of other external factors, nothing to do with the individual "will" or desire for the thing to happen.

    "I'd like to go on holiday" might just be a daydream, or it might be the opening to sorting out dates, transport, and all the rest. It's much clearer to distinguish what's being implied when expressed in Spanish (and I guess other languages too), since you would be saying the equivalent of "I want" or using the conditional of "like", depending on the sense.

    It's the implicitly understood meaning that is the most important factor, and that makes English very hard to get to grips with for so many foreigners, if they don't have the experience of living in the native English-speaking environment to see it all working in practice. Theory and grammar books and explanations are all just more words getting in the way of "how it works" in practice. Then you find that the pronunciation makes a whole world of difference, so even writing and exchanging in forums like this can lead to misunderstandings, through not "hearing" the intonation... It's a very broad issue...
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    tantan,
    You asked:"Isn't 'will' just part of a verbial phrase, is it really a verb?"
    It all depends on what your system of syntax calls a verb. Until that is established firmly and unequivocally, further discussion, I suggest, is largely pointless.
    In my own system of syntax (1) a verb is a single word (2) a sentence has as many clauses as it has verbs (3) where x is the number of verbs in a given sentence, x-1 is the number of conjunctions in that sentence (with the sole exception of correlative clauses).
    If these axioms are accepted, many other things, I suggest, become obvious.
    "Would" is indeed the past tense of "will" and, although they are most often used as Grey Fox describes - with a following 'naked' infinitive - that infinitive is no more than their accusative object, for the verb "to will" is transitive.
    This transitivity is perhaps more clearly seen in sentences such as:
    "We willed his success".
    In short, I recommend that sentence analysis - if it is thought useful at all - be much more thorough-going than it currently tends to be.
    In other words, avoid using phrase-analysis, or clause analysis until word-analysis is first clearly established.
    I maintain that 'seven parts of speech' are necessary for this purpose:
    noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction.
    I believe that those who argue that "interjection" should be the 8th are mistaken, since interjections are extra-syntactic and logically not part of the sentence, with which they are associated.
    So, to answer your question - according to my own 'cosmology' - "will" is often used as a verb.
    In a sentence, for example, like:
    Those who have never been punished, will never learn good manners"
    the verbs are underlined.
    Other present tense/past tense couples are, as Grey Fox has said:
    can/could shall/should may/might owe/owed (or) ought

    I hope this helps.
    Virgilio
     

    mateintwo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - American English
    Thank you Grey,

    I moved a discussion started on an English-Italian thread here (to act as my sounding board) and perhaps this was a mistake because from a practical point of view to English natives it does not matter if you say would (because it is classified conditional, past tense or something else) but it does matter a lot to the foreign student (trying to master English) that in his/her language uses a different tense to express what is used in English.

    In essence I wanted to have confirmation and reassurances before posting again on the foreign language boards that my interpretation was right that modal verbs and especially will are often mistaken to be conditional tense when they are really past tense.

    My advice to posters that are confused about the tense in English is to depending on context to use for will: want to, intend to, plan and for can: be able to, manage to. This way it becomes clearer to the student what tense to use in English. And of course I use the same trick in reverse when trying to understand complicated Italian phrases.

    I think t I got some reassurances from you but as you pointed out will/would can mean intention but with the outcome (completion of the action) not determined with certainty.
     

    Grey Fox

    Senior Member
    UK - English
    In reply to both mateintwo and Virgilio, I think all of us, not just English-speakers, would benefit greatly from the experience of having to teach others our own languages, and having to learn another language, too! It's not only the Brits who are "insular" about language!

    I can certainly say I learn far more about English by trying to make sense of it to a Spanish-speaker or express myself adequately in that language, than I ever did in English lessons at school. But the irony is that we did Latin and French at school and I hated both, unable to get "inside" the aspects that help one understand the concepts behind the words, syntax and grammar, all of which so fascinate me now!
     

    Siberia

    Senior Member
    UK-Wales - English
    Can you explain that? I can see your alternatives and understand them but as I am referring to something which didn't happen in the past and that can't be changed (day is over). Why do you feel that the perfect conditional can't be used here? Or is it a question of taste?
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Grey Fox,
    I agree with you that we "would benefit greatly from the experience of having to teach others our own languages" but I would extend it all languages,
    However, there are at least two problems, as I see it.
    The first, I am sure, does not apply to any contributor to this forum. It is that many students - especially those of more mature years - and not a few teachers even - tend to see language learning as simply acquiring limited conversation skills, rather than seeing these skills as a by-product or bonus result of that learning.
    The second was well put to me by a friend who had been taking a language course from a native speaker.
    "The trouble is" he told me "that natives know most of the answers but few of the questions". I think he is right
    I would say that it is easier to teach a foreign language to one's fellow countrymen than one's own language to foreign students.
    Virgilio
     

    tantan

    Member
    Bulgaria
    Grey Fox, Virgilio,
    Thank you for your explanations, I learned a lot.
    Just one more question: I can see that will is a modal verb, but when it is used to form, say, the future tense, wouldn't you agree that in "will do", "will sing", "will forget", "will" is part of the verbial phrase in the sentence?
    Maybe my question/confusion comes from a little distinction to be made: Don't we study parts of the speech, like Virgilio points out, noun, verb, adjective, etc., but also parts of the sentence: the subject (usually a noun, a pronoun etc.), the predicate (verb! or a verbial phrase, sometimes consisting of negative and modal parts and the infinitive), indirect, direct object etc.
    Anyway, it is not a very important question. I just loved your explanations and wanted to contribute too:)
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    tantan,
    Thank you for your reply. Yes, you could certainly call "will sing", "will do" etc 'verbal phrases'. My question would simply be, is it of any advantage to do so?
    If it would, please let me know.
    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    Grey Fox

    Senior Member
    UK - English
    Dear Tantan, and Virgilio since he's already answered your question:

    My experience teaching English to Spanish speakers (and having to explain everything in that language and from the point of view of that language's characteristics - grammar, obviously, but even to the extent of spelling and pronunciation) is that every word has to be accounted for, and therefore it requires a grammatical scheme of reference and the often obnoxious and seemingly fatuous excercise of "the naming of parts". There are many different ways of explaing and schematicising and "naming" English grammar and parts of speech.

    To a native English speaker it might not be particularly helpful, although I would suggest that there are ways and means of it being so, but they are largely dependent on the "learner" and the "helper" - teachers are frequently "obstacles" rather than helpers, and parents, friends or anyone else might fulfill that role.

    It was one of those rare moments of almost supernatural illumination when I discovered, through the bafflement of my students and their desire to "get it right", that because of the way their language (and therefore their ears and mouths and minds for processing linguistic, aural and oral and cognitive "sense" information) works so differently, certain aspects of spoken vs written/read English, like pronunciation, emphasis (we don't actually have "accents"), vowel sounds and deformations, elisions and contractions, which seem "obvious" and "peripheral" or at best "implicit" or "inevitable" to a native speaker, actually assume enormous and mind-blowing importance. Sufficient to render extremely intelligent and otherwise capable and extremely articulate adults, either gibbering wrecks or without the power of speech - sometimes never again in English or just giving up and never returning to classes.

    Those modal verbs, and the auxiliaries (into which group the verb to be has to be - somehwat incongruously - included for many purposes of analysing its behaviour!) are largely the culprits. Take "I'll", "can't", "you're", "he's", "should've" (often incorrectly spelled by English speakers as "should of" - a grammatical error no foreigner could fathom, until they wrestle with pronunciation in order to be understood when they utter a perfectly constructed phrase)... All suffer such deformations in pronunciation that in speech they often make the sense virtually impossible to decipher, or at best misunderstood. The written forms (and when to use them or not) baffle even native speakers, with the apostrophe adding to the confusion - do please read "Eats, shoots & leaves" on the subject!

    We talk about "the verb group" because it's made up of varying elements, which in many other languages are not present as separate words, but rather are identifiable through the conjugation of the main verb - paring it down to the basic sense these are: the protagonist (subject/pronoun), the action (verb) and the sense of placing the action in time (tense). All of that information is conveyed in one word in a conjugation, even the personal pronoun being irrelevant and only added if there's room for doubt, or for emphasis.... And we still haven't mentioned the modal verb or even the auxiliary...

    So, I beg pardon for boring those who don't need or aren't interested in all this, and apologise for embarking on an exposition of my take on English grammar.... I hope it at least points to the tip of the iceburg, which is so large every native speaker ought to be able to widen or deepen their understanding of their own language daily, until they breathe their last, and still not be able to say "I understand it all perfectly"! That, for me, is the best thing - and it ought to be thus for all languages, otherwise we couldn't call ourselves human beings...?
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is not always clear to native English speakers either :) and there are many threads on the general topics of will and would, may and might and so on. Here is a personal perspective on the two sentences posted earlier.

    (A) "Yesterday he told me that he would ask about X but he didn’t"
    ... sounds fine. I think it is fine even without the "but he didn't," at the end. To match this sentence his actual words yesterday were,
    "I will ask about X."
    This is a simple sentence without any sense of conditionality. It is equivalent to either of the alternatives that winklepicker listed:
    Yesterday he told me that he was going to...
    Yesterday he told me that he planned to...

    (B) "Yesterday he told me that he would have asked about X but he didn't."
    ... is difficult for me to get my mind around and I'm not convinced it is grammatical (shouldn't it end with "but he hasn't"?). It is not a common construction. To match this sentence his actual words yesterday were,
    "I will have asked about X."
    That is an unusual thing to say.
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    tantan,
    If I may add just one more point. I agree very much with Grey Fox that - for a serious student of language (leaving aside for the moment those who just want to be able to ask for a beer in a foreign bar) - "every word has to be accounted for". That accounting should principally, I suggest, account for the function of that word within its sentence.
    Functions words are - in my scheme of things - 7 in number:
    noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction.
    (Naturally, there will be exceptions. In Turkish, for example, and Japanese prepositions are normally replaced by postpositions.)
    In your 'verbal phrases' such as "will sing" "would do" "can read", "could say", "may be" "might go" and others of the same kind, the second word in the 'verbal phrase' is a 'naked' infinitive - that is, an infinitive unassisted by the preposition "to".
    Infinitives (whether 'naked' or not) are substantives - for they are a name which we give to the bundle of different forms which are the verb and all names are by definition substantives.
    English - unlike many other European languages - has 2 names for its verbs, (1) the infinitive and (2) the gerund and the two are often interchangeable.
    In the examples given above, the verbs (will,would, can, could, may, might) are - it seems to me - all transitive and the 'naked' infinitives which follow them are their objects.

    I hope this view of a little corner of English syntax may help.
    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    pajandrum said:
    That is an unusual thing to say.
    Or with a little addition, maybe?
    "Yesterday he told me that, by the afternoon, he would have asked about X but he didn't(?)/never did..

    Or (maybe better)
    Yesterday he told me that he would have asked about X by the afternoon....

     

    mateintwo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - American English
    Re Siberia’s question: referring to something which didn't happen in the past and that can't be changed (day is over). Why do you feel that the perfect conditional can't be used here?

    The answer is (I think) what I am trying to establish here on this thread. In “future in past” constructions “would” is not at all conditional it is just past tense. The fact the day is over does not change that he wanted to or planned to or would go to the bank (when he said this). This is why only if we add a hypothetical condition (impossibility) when he said he wanted to go the bank, do we use the past conditional.
    If you read again my first post on this thread I gave some examples.
    Even if a person says If I have the time I will go to the bank it becomes: he said yesterday he would go the bank if he had the time (the important thing is it was not impossible when it was said. Only if he says: If I had the time I would go it becomes truly conditional: He said he would have gone if he had (had) the time.

    LV4-26 wrote: Or with a little addition, maybe?
    I must assume that in French just as in Italian you express “future in the past” with the past conditional. In English however the correct way of saying your phrases even with the addition is: Yesterday he told me that, by the afternoon, he would ask about X but he never did. Yesterday he told me that he would ask about X by the afternoon....

    This is true even if it involves an extreme time period: My grandfather told my father in 1962: I will stop drinking and beating up your mother, that’s a promise. Today (2 March 2007) we know the truth. My grandfather said he would stop drinking and beating up my grandmother, but unfortunately he never did. Again in English we refer back to what was intended when it was said (and later actions or inactions do not matter).
     

    mateintwo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - American English
    :thumbsup: That's it, in a nutshell:thumbsup:

    Are we missing some fine nuance of meaning because of this?

    I do not think so. To me there are just different ways of expressing the same.
    As a matter of fact in Italian there is an alternative construction (becoming more common) using straight Imperfect tense of the modal verbs instead of the more awkward conditional could/should/would constructions: He said he could (had the capacity/opportunity)/he (should) had the need/ he would (wanted/intended) to study yesterday.
    Even in English I wish we would (wanted to) reduce or eliminate the usage of could/should/would (but of course I know it will not happen since it’s so engrained in the English language) in non-conditional sentences when we more clearly can express the same thing using other verbs in the past tense. In Italian they do not even have to worry about finding different verbs in this alternative construction since they have different conjugations for can/shall/will in the Imperfect and the Conditional tense.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Ok, just a final clarification, please.

    1. Of the following two, which one is preferable?
    (1) I will finish by the end of Spring
    (2) I'll have finished by the end of Spring

    2. Is....
    (3) He told me he'd have finished by the end of Spring
    - ....totally unacceptable?
    - very uncommon?
    - not very common?
     

    mateintwo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - American English
    I would say #1.1.
    The number 1.2 construction (future perfect) I would only say when it is qualified (one future action will have taken place before another) like: When you graduate next summer, I'll have finished already (by spring) my studies.

    As to # 1.3. I would say it’s between not very common & fairly common in spoken English (although grammatically in a pure sense incorrect). It sounds sort of all right in English but not quite so it easily slips in. But maybe I’m the wrong person to ask since I after living in Italy a few years I more easily than others can slip into this usage in English
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    LV4-26,
    Re your:" 1. Of the following two, which one is preferable?
    (1) I will finish by the end of Spring
    (2) I'll have finished by the end of Spring

    Both are perfectly correct with a very fine distinction between them:
    (1) is a simple statement of intention
    (2) suggests also - as primary perfect tenses usually do - that then (by the end of Spring) my time will be available for other purposes.

    Re:" 2. Is....
    (3) He told me he'd have finished by the end of Spring
    - ....totally unacceptable?
    - very uncommon?
    - not very common?

    Both syntax and style are impeccable and very common.

    BTW,re flight simulation have you tried the on-line version?

    All the best
    Virgilio
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello Mateintwo,
    An interesting point may arise in precisely this connexion, I think, about the history - or what I assume to be the history or histories - of "would". Firstly, it is plainly the past tense of "to will". When it is used in indirect speech, it seems to stand for "was going (to)". e.g.
    He said that he would write the letter = He said that he was going to write the letter.

    So far, I believe, so obvious! Since the verb "to will" came to be used in the sense of "to be going to (do something)" - that is, as an expression of the subject's "will"(volontà) - the past tense "would" naturally extends this idea to the past.
    No problem there.
    Re the use of the bare imperfect itself, which you mention, to replace the so-called 'conditional' (a very bad misnomer, if ever I saw one!) tense, do we not use it widely already in colloquial speech?
    e.g.
    Direct Speech: "I shall go to London tomorrow" = "I'm going to London tomorrow"
    Indirect Speech: "He said that he would go to London next day" = "He said that he was going to London next day".
    Isn't it the normal simplification which colloquial speech always performs on formal language?
    The 'conditional' use of "would" has - it seems to me a quite different pedigree. The Greeks have an interesting verb tense - for most purposes identical with the preterite (passato remoto) - caled the "aorist" tense. The Greek adjective "aoristos" means "without boundaries, limitless" (the "a" is the negative equivalent of the English "un" (as in "a-tom") and the "oristos" is derived from the verb "horizo" - to set limits", whose present participle is our word "horizon" - "the limiting one) In its special and characteristic use, the aorist tense is 'limitless' or 'timeless' - a timeless tense, if you please! When used, it means that not only did the thing happen, but it always does and always will, because that is the nature of things or people. We get a glimpse of it occasionally in English expressions:
    e.g.
    Faint heart never won fair lady
    though it must be admitted that the adverb "never" here gives the verb a hefty shove in the direction of timelessness!
    It seems to me that the 'conditional' "would" is the most commonly used modern 'aorist' tense in English.
    I don't know whether you can remember a famous 'cause célèbre' of the early 1960s in which a British politician's rather seedy private life was involved and one of the young women involved in the proceedings, on being told that someone disputed her evidence, is reported to have uttered the now famous words:"Well, he would, wouldn't he?"

    She was using - though perhaps she was not aware of it at the time - the aorist "would", implying that the person, whoever it was, was always (past, present and future alike) the sort of person who says that sort of thing.- al least that's how I understood it at the time.

    The apodoses of hypothetical conditional sentences are always, it seems to me, of that type, because they always involve make assertions which, since by definition they are unprovable, are based on the speaker's view of immutable cause-effect systems.

    If you're not confused now, Mateintwo, you're simply not trying!

    With best wishes

    Virgilio
     

    mateintwo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - American English
    I don’t know which confused me the most. Your answer to me or to LV4-26 but I think the latter.

    In my effort to learn Italian I bought an intermediary Italian lesson book (IILB) and in this book it is written: “In English in future in the past” constructions English uses present conditional while Italian uses “past conditional”.

    I did not think much about this until I joined the word reference forum and saw many such phrases confusing the Italians. When I thought about it, I just had to conclude my only grammatical reference the IILT was wrong about the tense in English.

    And for a while I thought you agreed but now to my horror you say to LV4-26:
    “He told me he'd have finished by the end of Spring - Both syntax and style are impeccable and very common”.

    To me the correct way to say this is: He told me he would finish by the end of Spring: So this raises a few scenarios: Either 1. You are wrong in your statement to LV4-26 or 2. My IILB is wrong again to say in English you do not use “past conditional” to express “future in the past”. If we try 3. to make the context “not future in the past” but seemingly “past/past” you can say
    He told me this summer that he wanted to have (intended to have) finished by the end of spring (and this is a complete sentence by itself) – but if you use conditional would have the sentence needs (screams out! for) a clarification.
    He told me this summer he would have finished by the end of spring/ had he not been sick/ if he had not spent to much time with his new girlfriend.
    Amazingly to me even in this seemingly “past/past” construction it sounds wrong to use past conditional because it goes back to the unsaid/unspecified moment in time when he must have thought: I will finish by the end of spring

    Even though I don’t want to spend much time on “future perfect” on this thread, I do not see much justification to use it unless you talk about two future events so I still prefer the simple future in the expressions presented.

    The “Profumo” question is a good trick to establish the age of a person!
     

    virgilio

    Senior Member
    English UK
    mateintwo,
    I'm very sorry, if I have really confused you. My reference to confusion in my last message was intended as a joke, as I'm sure you saw.
    When I replied to LV4-26 that both "I will finish by the end of Spring" and "I will have finished by the end of Spring" are good English, I was simply confirming that both sentences were well-formed both in syntax and style.
    I also added that there was a subtle distinction of meaning between the two - which perhaps you may like to look at again.
    Consequently, when the second of these two sentences is put into indirect speech (as an indirect statement) in secondary tense sequence it will naturally become "(that) he would have finished by the end of Spring" for the simple reason that "would" is the past tense of the verb "to will".
    This "would" has nothing whatever to do with hypothetical conditional ideas.
    I may have misunderstood your message but I think that introducing the verb "to want" into the equation is likely to add to confusion, for it is possible to "will" something without "wanting" it.
    Your minor addition to the original sentence may be a clue to the confusion, for you seem to have added the phrase "this summer":
    "He told me this summer that he wanted to have (intended to have) finished by the end of Spring".
    Let's get the time relations right. Did you mean that the "Spring" and the "summer" were in the same calendar year?
    If so, your sentence is - I suggest - misleading and should have been:
    "He told me this summer that he had intended to have finished by the end of Spring"
    . If, as I hope, you mean that "this summer he told me that he intended to have finished by the Spring (of next year), the sentence is clear and the words "intended to" can be replaced by "would" - just as a present tense "intends to" can be replaced by "will".

    I hope this helps.
    Best wishes
    Virgilio
     

    mateintwo

    Senior Member
    Swedish - American English
    Virgilio,

    You wrote: “He told me this summer that he wanted to have (intended to have) finished by the end of Spring".
    Let's get the time relations right. Did you mean that the "Spring" and the "summer" were in the same calendar year?
    If so, your sentence is - I suggest - misleading and should have been:
    "He told me this summer that he had intended to have finished by the end of Spring"

    I meant summer and spring of 2006 and you are right I expressed it wrongly. I got myself confused with a future in past construction. Actually I was using the alternative Italian way to express conditional =the imperfect of will (volere)+ infinitive which means the same in Italian as “would have + past particlce.

    Well I should have quit while ahead which was to demonstrate in English that we use in “future in the past” constructions the past tense of the modal verbs (or similar meaning verbs) while in Italian (and I assume other Latin languages) you use the past conditional.

    Thanks for your contributions.
     
    Top