would mean / had developed / would bear


Senior Member

1a. It would also mean that big emitters that had developed their industries more recently, such as Australia, would bear less of a share. (Korea universtity entrance exam)

As far as I know, to use 'the past perfect', we usually need a specific past time making a base line. But in this sentence, there are two past verbs, 'would mean' and 'would bear'. Then, how can I determine which verb is a base line of 'had developed'? Is the main verb in the whole sentence(would mean) or the main verb of the sentence beloing to 'had developed'(would bear)?

Thank you always~.
  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Don't worry about this, Jullianus. This is not the past perfect as such - simple sequence of tenses following 'would'. It is only past perfect in form. It could be argued that it makes the statement somewhat more tentative, but I personally would not buy that... :)

    And all this is, in my opinion, completely unnecessary - I would definitely have written 'that have developed'.

    Unless I'm missing something, of course...


    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Part of the key to understanding this sentence is to be aware what its first word (the pronoun 'it') is referring to. It is almost certainly a hypothetical proposition.
    The whole sentence is conditional on this 'it' being true. "It would mean that" is approximately equivalent to "If it is true, then". Basically, although 'would mean' and 'would bear' look like simple past, they are actually present conditional. By the same token, 'had developed' isn't a genuine past perfect, but also a conditional form. Think of it as: It would mean that if any emitters had developed their industries more recently, then they would bear less of a share. I agree with boozer that 'that have developed' would also be valid in this context (and probably more correct), since the development of the countries in question is already a matter of historical fact, so does not need to be conditionalized.

    The main verb in the sentence is 'would mean', which links the subject, 'it', to the complement 'that big emitters would bear less of a share".
    The subject of the complement clause, 'emitters', is further qualified by (a) the defining clause "that [have] developed ... recently" and (b) by the example clause "such as Australia".
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