[would have been] vs. [would be] [second conditional]

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JJXR

Senior Member
Russian
Hello to all,

Thanks for reading my post.


Sample sentences:

1. If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.

2. By the end of next year, about 700,000 fewer jobs would be created if the budget cuts were to take effect next month.

Question:

Both sample sentences are unreal future conditionals. Why is it correct to use "would have been" in sentence #1, and why is it incorrect to use "would have been" in sentence #2 ("would be" should be used instead)?


Thanks a lot for any comments, corrections or suggestions!

Regards,
JJXR
 
  • JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The first implies "..but the extension has taken place (already) - so the benefits will not be lost "
    Thanks Franco-filly! Is my understanding correct?

    "If there were to be no extention" = "If the extension had not been adopted"
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I find sentence #1 dubious with the conditional perfect (unless it is backshifted in reported speech perhaps).

    Sentence #2 is the same as if the budget cuts took effect ... would be created.

    How can if there were to be no extension (future reference) be the same as if the extension had not been adopted (past reference)?
     
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    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    The first implies "..but the extension has taken place (already) - so the benefits will not be lost "
    How can if there were to be no extension (future reference) be the same as if the extension had not been adopted (past reference)?
    Thanks e2efour! Franco-filly's interpretation of sentence #1 means to me this: "If the extension had not been adopted, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year." That's why I'm asking.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    1. If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.
    If we convert this to an open (real) conditional, we have the following correct sentence:
    (1a) 'If there is to be no extension, benefits will have been lost by the end of next year'. This leaves it open whether there will be an extension or not.

    The original is a correct closed (unreal, hypothetical) conditional, which means that the speaker considers it unlikely that there will be no extension.

    In sentence (1a) the future perfect 'will have been' can be replaced by the future: 'If there is to be no extension, benefits will be lost by the end of next year'.
    That is a different sense, but it is logically possible, because the process can be envisaged by looking forward to the date as well as by looking back from it.

    Consequently, it follows that in sentence (1) 'would have been' can correctly be replaced by 'would'. Both variants are valid, though the sense is different.

    The same argument applies conversely in sentence (2): 'would be' can logically be replaced by 'would have been'. Both are valid.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Without an extension, 2 million individuals would have lost their benefits over the holidays, the White House said, and 7 million would have done so by the end of next year.
    But that's reported speech!
    When you put an original open (real) future conditional into reported speech, it takes the same form as a closed (unreal, hypothetical) future conditional.
    This quote from the other thread shows that kind of conversion (essentially the same as in post 6 here):
    1. If there is no extension, 2 million will have lost benefits by the end of the holiday season.
    2. If there were to be no extension, 2 million would have lost benefits by the end of the holiday season
    Please note that I say 'closed future conditional' rather than 'second conditional'.
    This is a good example of how misleading that term is. If you say that the second conditional always has 'would' and never 'would have' for the main verb, then you cannot include the present example.

    However, the 'have' in this case is forming the future perfect, and the future perfect refers to the future just as well as the ordinary future tense. Consequently, the future perfect form with 'have' is just as valid in a future conditional as the ordinary verb.
     
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    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    If you follow the link that I have provided, it doesn't look like reported speech in post #2 (2 million individuals <would have lost>... and 7 million <would have done> so...). It looks to me more like a second conditional because the subjunctive form of the verb "to be" is used in the if clause (Hercules's second sentence).
    I was looking at the context given by "the White House said". That's reported speech.

    However, I prefer would lose for what is a prediction.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I was looking at the context given by "the White House said". That's reported speech.
    Without an extension, 2 million individuals would have lost their benefits over the holidays, the White House said, and 7 million would have done so by the end of next year.
    If we convert the conditional phrase 'without an extension' into a clause, the result is:

    'If there were to be no extension, 2 million individuals would have lost their benefits over the holidays, the White House said, and 7 million would have done so by the end of next year'.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    What do you mean? In that exact form?
    1. If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.
    Yes, in the form in which it is in the OP.
    The original is a correct closed (unreal, hypothetical) conditional, which means that the speaker considers it unlikely that there will be no extension.
    I find sentence #1 dubious with the conditional perfect (unless it is backshifted in reported speech perhaps).
    Does your interpretation work for sentence #1 in direct speech? Is it not anomalous to use "would have been" if there is no reporting verb such as "said"? Do you agree with e2efour?
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    As mentioned, an open future conditional in direct speech, when converted to reported speech, has the verbs changed to the same form as in a closed future conditional.

    If the open future conditional has its main verb in the future perfect, with 'will have' instead of 'will', then the reported version correctly changes to 'would have' instead of 'would'.

    (3) ' He said, "If sales continue at this rate, we will have reached the yearly target by the end of the month". ':tick:
    (4) 'He said that if sales continued at that rate, they would have reached the yearly target by the end of the month.':tick:

    We can also, within direct speech, convert the open version of the conditional sentence into a closed form:
    (5) ' He said "If sales continued at that rate, we would have reached the yearly target by the end of the month". ':tick:

    But note that with this last change we have altered the meaning.
    The difference between sentence (3) and sentence (5) is that in (5) the speaker expresses the belief that sales are unlikely to continue at that rate.
    Yes, in the form in which it is in the OP.
    I am still not clear what you mean. Please write out the sentence you have in mind and I will comment.
     
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    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I am still not clear what you mean. Please write out the sentence you have in mind and I will comment.
    If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.
    As mentioned, an open future conditional in direct speech, when converted to reported speech, changes to the same form as a closed future conditional.
    A closed future conditional in direct speech, when converted to reported speech, doesn't change. Am I correct?

    'He said, "If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year".'
    'He said that if there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.'
    I find sentence #1 dubious with the conditional perfect (unless it is backshifted in reported speech perhaps).
    As far as I understand, e2efour says that the sentence I have in mind doesn't work in direct speech because of the conditional perfect.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.
    I have already commented on that sentence:
    The original is a correct closed (unreal, hypothetical) conditional, which means that the speaker considers it unlikely that there will be no extension.
    A closed future conditional in direct speech, when converted to reported speech, doesn't change. Am I correct?
    That is correct, as far as the tense forms of the verb are concerned. Consequently, the reported speech is ambiguous.
    We cannot tell, except from context, whether the original conditional was open or closed.
    As far as I understand, e2efour says that the sentence I have in mind doesn't work in direct speech because of the conditional perfect.
    In the given example, 'would have' is future perfect. This is the same form as 'conditional perfect', but the meaning is different.
    In the future perfect, 'will have' has been converted to 'would have' (it is not 'would' converted to 'would have').
    This is another example of ambiguity in English conditionals.
     
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    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    'He said, "If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year".'
    'He said that if there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.'
    In this case, "would have" has been converted to "would have". Is it called the conditional perfect?
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    In this case, "would have" has been converted to "would have". Is it called the conditional perfect?
    No, it is still the future perfect, expressed in indirect form. It has only changed once, from 'will have' to 'would have'.
    At the second stage, (when the closed conditional is put into indirect statement), it does not change: it stays the same.
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    'He said, "If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year".'
    'He said that if there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.'
    Consequently, the reported speech is ambiguous. We cannot tell, except from context, whether the original conditional was open or closed.
    I thought it wasn't ambiguous in this case (post #19).

    "Were" is the subjunctive form of the verb "to be". In my sentence in post #19, it is used in the if clause of the reported speech version. This is an indication that the direct speech version also has "were" in the if clause ("were" doesn't change when converted to reported speech). Since the construction "were to be", when used in an if clause in direct speech, can only be part of a closed future conditional, I conclude that the direct speech version is a closed future conditional.

    Direct speech version:
    'He said, "If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year".'

    Reported speech version:
    'He said that if there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.'

    If the reported speech version had "was" in the if clause (the indicative form of the verb "to be"), this would lead me to believe that the direct speech version was an open future conditional.

    Direct speech version:
    'He said, "If there is to be no extension, benefits will have been lost by the end of next year".'

    Reported speech version:
    'He said that if there was to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.'
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I thought it wasn't ambiguous in this case (post #19) .... If the reported speech version had "was" in the if clause (the indicative form of the verb "to be"), this would lead me to believe that the direct speech version was an open future conditional.
    I am afraid that correlation does not hold up in practice. 'Was' and 'were' are in fact both used by native speakers in forming the closed present and future conditional. I regard 'were' as correct in that context and 'was' as a colloquialism, but still you will find 'was' in reputable sources.
    Therefore the presence or absence of 'was' does not remove the ambiguity.

    However, context usually makes the meaning clear; and anyway it is arguable that there is little real difference in meaning between a closed conditional and the reported version of an open conditional. In each case, the fulfilment of the condition and its consequence is not openly or directly envisaged by the speaker, but is placed at one remove from reality, so to speak.
     
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    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Thanks a lot wandle!
    No, it is still the future perfect, expressed in indirect form. It has only changed once, from 'will have' to 'would have'. At the second stage, (when the closed conditional is put into indirect statement), it does not change: it stays the same.
    The conditional perfect is used to refer to a hypothetical, usually counterfactual, event or circumstance placed in the past, contingent on some other circumstance (again normally counterfactual, and also usually placed in the past). Is "would have been" an example of the conditional perfect in the sentence below?

    If there had been no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of last year.
     
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    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    JJXR, perhaps you could to give a model sentence of the type you are studying (closed conditionals only) using the conditional perfect would have been <participle>, bearing in mind that was or were are interchangeable after I, he/she/it.
    The ones I give below have no context apart from the use of certain tenses and the use of by or now.

    1. If there had been no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of last year
    is a good example of a sentence that refers to the past.
    2. If there were no extension, benefits would be lost by the end of this year is a good example of a sentence that refers to the future.
    3. If there were/was to be no extension, benefits would have been lost:confused: by the end of this year is not a sentence that I find acceptable since "by the end of this year" refers to the future, not to the present.
    4. If she had caught the 2 o'clock train, she would be here by now.:tick: (If she caught would be an open conditional.)
    5. If she had caught the 2 o'clock train, she would have been here by now.:tick:
    6. If we had read the instructions more carefully we {would know / would have known} what to do now.:tick:
    7. If my mother-in-law was/were coming tomorrow, I would have spent all day cleaning the house.:tick:Here the if clause is counterfactual, which is not usual.

    Sentence 3. may be possible in certain circumstances, e.g. with backshift or reported speech, but on its own I do not understand it.

    In my view, there is no more difficult area of English grammar in which to make up rules than that of conditional sentences.






     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    In my view, there is no more difficult area of English grammar in which to make up rules than that of conditional sentences.
    In my view, JJXR is posing a series of intelligent questions. The future perfect tense is a standard part of English grammar.
    This page has a relevant example, to show duration before something in the future:
    I will have been in London for six months by the time I leave.
    This is accompanied by a diagram:
    Fut Perf.jpg

    There is nothing to prevent a future perfect being used in a future conditional (closed or open). The future perfect is still a future tense.
    If that sentence is put into past indirect statement, 'will have' becomes 'would have': and the same thing happens if it is used in a closed future conditional.
    3. If there were/was to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of this year
    7. If my mother-in-law was/were coming tomorrow, I would have spent all day cleaning the house.
    These two sentences have the same structure and are both valid. They are both closed (hypothetical) future conditionals.
    They both express the speaker's belief that the condition is unlikely to be fulfilled.
    To quote the Oxford English Grammar:
    Hypothetical conditions ... express the speaker's belief that the condition has not been fulfilled (for past conditions), is not fulfilled (for present conditions) or is unlikely to be fulfilled (for future conditions).
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Is "would have been" an example of the conditional perfect in the sentence below?
    If there had been no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of last year.
    Some books and websites use the term 'conditional perfect'. I prefer 'subjunctive' to 'conditional', but yours is a valid example of it.
    The Oxford English Grammar puts it like this:
    The past hypothetical condition takes the past perfect in the conditional clause and a past modal in the host clause.
    Future and present hypothetical conditions take a past in the conditional clause and a past modal in the host clause.
    The term 'past modal' covers both 'would' and 'would have' etc.
    Your sentence (quoted in this post) is a valid example of a past closed (hypothetical) conditional sentence.
     
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    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    There is nothing to prevent a future perfect being used in a future conditional (closed or open). The future perfect is still a future tense. If that sentence is put into past indirect statement, 'will have' becomes 'would have': and the same thing happens if it is used in a closed future conditional.
    I think there are things that can prevent us from constructing a closed future conditional with the future perfect "would have" in the main clause. Let's suppose we have a situation in which we know that the main action would be completed before some point in time in the future. When it is necessary to give a counterfactual description of that situation (a description in the form of a closed future conditional), it seems that constructions such as "were (not) to", "were (not) going to", etc., are appropriate in the if clause of that closed future conditional (other constructions that do not take this form are not appropriate). Both the above mentioned constructions and the nature of the situation they are describing call for the use of the future perfect "would have" in the result clause of the conditional sentence. Below are some sentences from my earlier threads that prove this point.


    A native speaker who replied to this thread chose "would have lost" in the main clause and "were to be" instead of "were" in the conditional clause.

    [1A] If there were to be no extension, 2 million would have lost benefits by the end of the holiday season. :tick:
    [1B] If there were no extension, 2 million would have lost benefits by the end of the holiday season. :cross:


    Here the same native speaker chose "would have served" in the main clause and "were to take" instead of "took" in the conditional clause.

    [2A] If the new members were to take office on Jan. 4, 2012, they would have served more than a year by the time the next term started on Jan. 9, 2013. :tick:
    [2B] If the new members took office on Jan. 4, 2012, they would have served more than a year by the time the next term started on Jan. 9, 2013. :cross:


    Here the suggested versions were "weren't going to fire" and "were not to fire". Those who replied to this thread said "didn't fire" was wrong in the conditional clause, but agreed that "would have been working" was correct in the main clause.

    [3A] If they were not to fire him tomorrow, then by the end of this month he would have been working at that school for twenty years. :tick:
    [3B] If they weren't going to fire him tomorrow, then by the end of this month he would have been working at that school for twenty years. :tick:
    [3C] If they didn't fire him tomorrow, then by the end of this month he would have been working at that school for twenty years. :cross:


    In my opinion, the above examples (the valid ones) are likely to be used when the speaker has foreknowledge of what is likely to happen and what is likely to be contrary to fact. In all three examples, "would have" is used because it is either necessary to show that the action would be completed before a point in time in the future or it is necessary to show hypothetical duration before that point in time in the future. The idea of foreknowledge makes it mandatory to convert "is" to "were to be" rather than "were", "take" to "were to take" rather than "took", and "don't fire" to "were not to fire"/"weren't going to fire" rather than "didn't fire."
    1. If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year.
    As regards topic sentence #1, "were to be" in the conditional clause and "would have been" in the main clause are used for the reasons stated above. My supposition is further proven by Franco-filly's reply in post #2 (topic sentence #1 gives that impression of foreknowledge).
     

    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    JJXR, perhaps you could to give a model sentence of the type you are studying (closed conditionals only) using the conditional perfect would have been <participle>, bearing in mind that was or were are interchangeable after I, he/she/it.
    I study English by identifying patterns and formulating clear rules for those patterns. Basically, my goal is to cover as many cases as possible. I'm trying to understand in which cases "would have (been) + past participle" and "would have been + present participle" are used in a closed future conditonal, i.e. when they refer to a future hypothetical result. The problem is that some native speakers consider such usage correct, while others don't. Here are some examples from my previous threads (these are my model sentences).

    [1] If Group A always knew when Group B would arrive and arrived three hours before then, they would always have been waiting for three hours by the time Group B arrived (this link).

    [2] If they started working in an hour and finished at exactly that time tomorrow, twenty four hours would have passed since they started (this link).

    [3] If he had not already been waiting for the bus for an hour (if he had been waiting for only 30 minutes), then if the bus didn't arrive for two more hours, he wouldn't have been waiting for it for 3 hours when it arrived: he would have been waiting for only two and a half hours (this link).

    [4] If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year (this link).

    [5] Were it not for the fact the man is going to be fired tomorrow, he would still be working there at the end of the month, by which time he would have clocked up 20 years' service at the school (this link).

    In all five examples, the hypothetical result in the main clause is in the future. Sentence #3 is a little bit different from the rest in that it is an example of the 3rd and 2nd mixed conditional. In post #29, there are more examples of "would have (been) + past participle" and "would have been + present participle" referring to the future.
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I think there are things that can prevent us from constructing a closed future conditional with the future perfect "would have" in the main clause.
    It seems to me that that sentence is not borne out by what follows. The rest of post 29 clearly demonstrates the truth of the following statement:
    There is nothing to prevent a future perfect being used in a future conditional (closed or open). The future perfect is still a future tense. If that sentence is put into past indirect statement, 'will have' becomes 'would have': and the same thing happens if it is used in a closed future conditional.
    All the sentences given a green tick in post 29 are good examples of the future perfect being used in a closed future conditional.
    [3] If he had not already been waiting for the bus for an hour (if he had been waiting for only 30 minutes), then if the bus didn't arrive for two more hours, he wouldn't have been waiting for it for 3 hours when it arrived: he would have been waiting for only two and a half hours (this link).
    In this case, to make it clear that the reference is to the future, it would be better to say 'if the bus were not to arrive for two more hours'.
    Otherwise, some people will understand 'didn't arrive' as meaning 'hadn't arrived' and then they will take the whole sentence as referring to the past.
     
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    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The Oxford English Grammar puts it like this:

    The past hypothetical condition takes the past perfect in the conditional clause and a past modal in the host clause.
    Future and present hypothetical conditions take athe past in the conditional clause and a past modal in the host clause
    .​

    The term 'past modal' covers both 'would' and 'would have' etc.:confused:
    The author does not appear to agree with your last sentence, as we read later in the book. Note that the bolding is the author's.

    Hypothetical conditions take backshifted tenses: for present and future conditions, the past is used in the conditional clause and a past modal (generally would) in the host clause
    ('If I had my dictionary, I would look up the word'); for past conditions, the past perfect is used in the conditional clause and a past perfect modal (generally would have) in the host clause
    ('If I had seen them, I would have invited them to eat with us').

    Perhaps you could quote from the book an example of a closed future conditional which is not indirect speech and which contains the past tense (not a past perfect tense) or were to in the conditional clause and would have in the host clause. You are, after all, claiming that the term past modal covers both would and would have.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Perhaps you could quote from the book an example of a closed future conditional which is not indirect speech and which contains the past tense (not a past perfect tense) or were to in the conditional clause and would have in the host clause.
    I do not recall such an example, but I suspect that is because the author has not explicitly dealt with an instance of the future perfect.
    That may be (a) because it is not a common usage, (b) because it could appear confusing, since 'would have' is ambiguous, or (c) simply for lack of space.

    As I mentioned in post 6, it is always logically possible, in a sentence such as 'If there were to be no extension, benefits would have been lost by the end of next year', to express the result with 'would' (looking forward to the date) rather than 'would have' (looking back from the date in an imagined retrospect). 'Would' is simpler and clearer than 'would have' and preferable for that reason.
     
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    JJXR

    Senior Member
    Russian
    'Would' is simpler and clearer than 'would have' and preferable for that reason.
    This is true when one needs to show that one action would be completed before another hypothetical future action. But the same does not go for sentences in which one needs to express hypothetical duration before a point in time in the future. For example, the use of "would pass" and "would be waiting" would be wrong in sentences [1] and [2] in my post #30. The use of "would serve" would be wrong in sentence [2A] in my post #29. Am I right?
     
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