Reply Mon 14 Jul, 2008 09:13 pm
He looks as if he has seen a ghost.

He looks as if he had seen a ghost.

Is there any difference between the sentences?

Many thanks.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 15 Jul, 2008 12:14 am
He looks as if he has seen a ghost.

or

He looked as if he had seen a ghost.

agree grammatically

but

He looks as if he had seen a ghost.

does not.
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Jul, 2008 04:38 pm
Present:

John is here. He looks as though he has seen a ghost.

Past:

I met John yesterday. He looked as though he had seen a ghost.

Tenses must agree.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  2  
Reply Fri 18 Jul, 2008 11:11 pm
contrex wrote:
Present:

John is here. He looks as though he has seen a ghost.

Past:

I met John yesterday. He looked as though he had seen a ghost.

Tenses must agree.


This is a fallacy, a common fallacy but a fallacy nevertheless. Tenses do not have to always agree.


[He goes into a room and then he comes back out]

He looks [now] as if he had seen a ghost [when he went into the room].
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 12:21 am
JTT

The word "fallacy" is perhaps inappropriate. You omit to discuss the length of time "he was is the room", in order for it to be acceptable to change "has" to "had".

Actually, this raises the technical point of different attitudes to "grammar". In traditional grammar the "sentence" is considered to be the unit of analysis on which "rules" operate, but modern grammarians (e.g. Halliday) have argued for "discourse analysis" in which the context of real "utterances" as opposed to abstract "sentences"is taken into account. The final arbiter of acceptability may therefore be "semantics" rather than "grammaticality" and that is what a non-native speaker of English tends to find difficult because there will always be problems with understanding total context. Such a speaker would prefer a simple rule.
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McTag
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 12:51 am
Take a pause, have a cup of tea, chill.

You didn't answer the question.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 01:52 am
McTag.

Laughing

There's always a "difference" between any two items up for comparison...even two instances of writing the symbol "A".

The question is really about the significance of the difference.
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 05:44 am
Well said, fresco.
0 Replies
 
McTag
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 06:53 am
contrex wrote:
Well said, fresco.


Hah! That's what our politicians do- if they don't like the question, they answer one they had prepared earlier.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 10:43 am
fresco wrote:
JTT

The word "fallacy" is perhaps inappropriate. You omit to discuss the length of time "he was is the room", in order for it to be acceptable to change "has" to "had".

Perhaps fallacy sounded a bit too strong, Fresco. Nevertheless, it is untrue that tenses always have to agree. You've allowed as much in your discussion.

Actually, this raises the technical point of different attitudes to "grammar". In traditional grammar the "sentence" is considered to be the unit of analysis on which "rules" operate, but modern grammarians (e.g. Halliday) have argued for "discourse analysis" in which the context of real "utterances" as opposed to abstract "sentences"is taken into account.

Traditional grammar was wrong about a lot of things. It follows then that the attitudes about that grammar are themselves mistaken. When something is wrong, is there any sense in maintaining said mistakes/attitudes?

The final arbiter of acceptability may therefore be "semantics" rather than "grammaticality" and that is what a non-native speaker of English tends to find difficult because there will always be problems with understanding total context. Such a speaker would prefer a simple rule.


The simplest of rules is that tenses don't always have to agree. When faced with this simple reality, ESLs are not puzzled when they run into such examples. Instead of focusing on inaccurate rules, they can simply look to meaning. Language is all about nuance and ESLs sometimes focus too much on grammar which causes them to miss a lot of nuance.

1. He looks as if he has seen a ghost.

2. He looks as if he had seen a ghost.

3. He looks as if he saw a ghost.

Is there any difference between the sentences?

Both you and Contrex focused on grammar and you now allow that that grammar is not an accurate representation of language. Tenses often agree, but that doesn't mean they have to agree and yet that was the outcome Tanguatlay was left with.

While native speakers are not affected by errant grammar rules, ESLs most definitely are. So there really is no sense in maintaining an old rule just because it was once analyzed in a certain fashion.

How much time does he have to have spent / did he have to spend in the room for there to be a shift in tense? I'd say not much for the shift in focus can be simply a shift on the part of the speaker. But that isn't really the overall issue; the issue is that there are choices and these choices are not decided solely on the basis of tense agreement.

Which is the most commonly used of the three above? Probably 'has seen', but that doesn't exclude the others. Why do speakers choose different collocations? - this is the real meat of the issue, this is what Tanguatlay needs to find out.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 11:45 am
JTT,

Without getting bogged down with the nuances of competing linguistic models I would merely remark that your use of "wrong" is simplistic. Your "in the room" scenario simply evokes extrinsic contextual considerations beyond that expressed by the "sentence". Once any form of context is evoked, we go beyond the realms of "traditional grammar" and there is no limit to the possibilities for general rule modification. Examples of this occur with respect to the sociological roots of idiolects and in poetry.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Jul, 2008 01:04 pm
fresco wrote:
JTT,

Without getting bogged down with the nuances of competing linguistic models I would merely remark that your use of "wrong" is simplistic. Your "in the room" scenario simply evokes extrinsic contextual considerations beyond that expressed by the "sentence". Once any form of context is evoked, we go beyond the realms of "traditional grammar" and there is no limit to the possibilities for general rule modification. Examples of this occur with respect to the sociological roots of idiolects and in poetry.


Fresco, I don't see how my use can be considered simplistic. Traditional grammar is what is simplistic. While it may be fine to study something in a vacuum when there are no effects to consider, this simply doesn't work for ESLs.

They have to know what is available to them for language use and the things that have to be available to them are the same things that are available to us as native speakers.

These questions arise because ESLs are exposed to them in the real world, in real language. Isn't it then simplistic to give them a simple answer, a simple rule?
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Jul, 2008 01:18 am
JTT

The fact remains that the sentence "He looks as if he had seen a ghost" is statistically aberrent to UK speakers of English because active percepton will assign it "meaning" equivalent to the "has" version. Where this feeling of aberration comes from could be explained by reference to culture, perhaps using the model of Chomsky's transformational grammar in which "had seen" (surface structure) is a culture specific transformation of "has had the experience of seeing some time ago" (deep structure). Note that the "difference" between the "has" and "had" versions can only be substantiated by assuming the "some time ago" sub-context...but this will only occur by juxtaposing the "has" and "had" versions...without such juxtaposition the versions remain semantically equivalent with the second grammatically aberrent (to some).

These considerations are my reasons for using the word "simplistic".
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Jul, 2008 11:34 am
fresco wrote:
JTT

The fact remains that the sentence "He looks as if he had seen a ghost" is statistically aberrent to UK speakers of English because active percepton will assign it "meaning" equivalent to the "has" version.

Hello again, Fresco. I allowed that that was the case. I wrote,

"Which is the most commonly used of the three above? Probably 'has seen', but that doesn't exclude the others."

And I'd say that that would be the case for NaE as well.

I guess my point wrt that is, that is what Tanguatlay should have been told at the outset, that this particular construction is uncommon, not that tenses must match.



Where this feeling of aberration comes from could be explained by reference to culture, perhaps using the model of Chomsky's transformational grammar in which "had seen" (surface structure) is a culture specific transformation of "has had the experience of seeing some time ago" (deep structure). Note that the "difference" between the "has" and "had" versions can only be substantiated by assuming the "some time ago" sub-context...but this will only occur by juxtaposing the "has" and "had" versions...without such juxtaposition the versions remain semantically equivalent with the second grammatically aberrent (to some).

These considerations are my reasons for using the word "simplistic".


I agree with you, there's no doubt that many of these choices are culturally/dialect "centrically" induced, Fresco. One excellent example is the greater tendency for speakers of BrE to use the present perfect.

Might I suggest that what seems to be grammatically aberrant only reflects our tendency to seize on the most likely context.

Just a random thought; do you think that this same "some time ago" sub-context applies in the case of reported speech?

For example,

A: I have recently been to Spain.

B: What did he say, C?

C: He said that he had recently been to Spain.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Jul, 2008 01:26 pm
Perhaps (because of the time delay beteen A's sentence and C's report). But in this case I think any hypothetical choice between between "has been" and "had been " depends on different interpretations of "what" by C...the "has" version is where C reports A's words, the "had" version is where C reports A's stated actions.
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Jul, 2008 03:42 pm
This is plausible in UK English:

B: Ask A what he's been up to, C.

C: What have you been doing lately, A?

A: I have recently been to Spain.

B: What does he say, C?

C: He says that he has recently been to Spain.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Jul, 2008 04:16 pm
contrex wrote:
This is plausible in UK English:

B: Ask A what he's been up to, C.

C: What have you been doing lately, A?

A: I have recently been to Spain.

B: What does[/u] he say, C? 'does', really?

C: He says that he has recently been to Spain.


"plausible" means that it's a possibility. What would some other possibilities be, Contrex?
0 Replies
 
contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Jul, 2008 11:16 pm
Yes, 'does', really. You seem to have a problem with that. Why?
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2008 02:57 am
I think we are getting into the realms of sociolinguistcs and communication dynamics here rather than linguistics per se. In a communicative exchange one "passes the ball" so to speak in terms of stylistics in order to fulfil "communicative convergence goals". This occurs at phonetic levels and lexical selection as well as syntax. The use of a particular tense by A is likely to be copied by use of the same tense by B.
0 Replies
 
solipsister
 
  2  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2008 05:09 am
Re: has/had seen
tanguatlay wrote:
He looks as if he has seen a ghost.

He looks as if he had seen a ghost.

Is there any difference between the sentences?

Many thanks.


yes
 

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