contrex
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2008 08:45 am
I think that while it makes sense to say that somebody looks [now] like they have [just] seen a ghost -- they look shocked and scared -- I don't really think it makes sense to talk about someone looking [now] as if they had [at some time in the past] seen a ghost. My father says he saw a ghost round about 1930 and he looks just like any other man of 89.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2008 10:35 am
contrex wrote:
I think that while it makes sense to say that somebody looks [now] like they have [just] seen a ghost -- they look shocked and scared -- I don't really think it makes sense to talk about someone looking [now] as if they had [at some time in the past] seen a ghost. My father says he saw a ghost round about 1930 and he looks just like any other man of 89.


Clearly the time fame does not have to be as distant as you make it out to be, Contrex.

If I refer to one of your previous postings, I could say,

"Contrex said, "...... ..... "

But if I refer to one posting in relation to another,

In his second posting, Contrex had said, "... ... ... ", while in his fourth posting he said "... ... " [Of course, I'm not compelled to use "had said" but I most certainly can.]

This could all occur in the space of a few minutes if we were all present on line at the same time and actively discussing this. The point of all this, which both you and Fresco seem to be trying to avoid is that tenses do not always have to match. While a certain matching can and does tend to predominate, there are life situations that will cause speakers to choose other collocations.


["he" goes into a room and quickly comes out with a terrified look on his face]

Both,

He looks as if he has seen a ghost.

He looks as if he had seen a ghost.

could be used.

Do both of these sound fine to you?

He looks as if he has seen a ghost in there.

He looks as if he had seen a ghost in there.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Jul, 2008 10:45 am
fresco wrote:
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.


Fresco,

That's exactly what has always been needed even in a study of language with native speakers as end users of the study, ie. native speakers studying the grammar of their language, studying about their language.

When there are choices between collocations, communication dynamics, ie. the register; CONV vs FICTION vs NEWSPAPER vs ACAD; who's being addressed, in what social setting; ... , all have pronounced effects upon collocation choice.

Again, your use of 'likely' shows us that there are choices and this brings us back to the central issue of this thread; tenses do NOT always have to match.
0 Replies
 
tanguatlay
 
  2  
Reply Fri 19 Sep, 2008 10:50 pm
@solipsister,
Hi fellow members.

He looks as if he has seen a ghost.

He looks as if he had seen a ghost.

I've read that the first sentence means that he has actually seen a ghost, whereas the second implies that she had not seen a ghost, but it looks like he has seen one.

From all the exchanges between those who responded to my query, I conclude that none of you thinks the above stated distinction between the two sentences is valid.

I look forward to hearing your views.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Sep, 2008 11:33 pm
@tanguatlay,
I didn't read most of the prior exchanges (because I don't think any of them understood what's confusing you) but here's my take:

I think you are seeing that distinction because you have been taught that with hypothetical possibility you use the subjunctive mood.

For example: "If I were you."

But in reality that expression you are asking about isn't trying to capture the conditional nature of the person having seen the ghost. It's just a figure of speech that is saying that he looks like he saw a ghost and we know the person didn't see a ghost.

So with that in mind, the expression should be "He looks as if he has seen a ghost" or "He looked as if he had seen a ghost."

You don't need to use the subjunctive mood when using this meaning of the expression because the condition of seeing a ghost is a rhetorical flourish that is assumed to not be true.

But if that were a important condition, then yes the subjunctive mood could imply different meaning. For example, from a fictional ghost story:

"Tom is telling the truth, he looks as if he has seen a ghost. I think Peter is lying, he looks as if he had seen a ghost but I think he's faking it."

So in the context that expression is often used the subjunctive tense should not be used, but if you are serious about the condition of seeing a ghost and it's an important condition to the context then yes it would change the meaning.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 05:28 pm
@Robert Gentel,
[How did I miss this one?]

Damn good analysis, Robert, except for,

Quote:
So with that in mind, the expression should be "He looks as if he has seen a ghost" or "He looked as if he had seen a ghost."


What of,

He looks as if he saw a ghost. OR He looks like he saw a ghost.

and this,

Quote:
So in the context that expression is often used the subjunctive tense should not be used,


There is no "subjunctive tense" because in English there is no subjunctive tense. There are a few subjunctive forms left in English but I doubt that "had + PP" is one of them.

Quote:
So in the context that expression is often used the subjunctive tense should not be used, but if you are serious about the condition of seeing a ghost and it's an important condition to the context then yes it would change the meaning.


The form is the same, whether it expresses a "subjunctive mood" or it doesn't. The only way to tell is by the context. We can't simply excise what you call the "subjunctive tense", ["had +PP"] as there's no other way to express the differences that you've noted.











0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 8 Aug, 2009 08:50 pm
@contrex,
Quote:
I think that while it makes sense to say that somebody looks [now] like they have [just] seen a ghost -- they look shocked and scared -- I don't really think it makes sense to talk about someone looking [now] as if they had [at some time in the past] seen a ghost. My father says he saw a ghost round about 1930 and he looks just like any other man of 89.


I already remarked on this issue that Contrex had raised [focus on that fairly distant time in the past, July 2008]

"I've already remarked on this issue that Contrex has raised."

It doesn't matter that a year has passed, I can use the present perfect to make this year old topic seem new, seem important to the discussion now.

I had already remarked on this issue before Robert last posted.

=================

What these examples show is that we use different aspects of the past tense, the past perfect, the present perfect and the past simple, for different semantic reasons. We don't just follow prescriptive rules telling us that we have to match tenses. If we actually followed such nonsense, then there would be many things that we'd be unable to express; clearly an untenable position for language.

The English language has no established rules as depicted by Concord of Tenses/ Sequence of Tenses. As it is with other prescriptions, all we have to do is look around us to see examples that disprove the prescription.

If I hadn't written this, some would still believe in Concord of Tenses/ Sequence of Tenses.

If I hadn't written this, some would still be passing around false information about Concord of Tenses/ Sequence of Tenses.

If Robert hadn't been born, he wouldn't have this A2K website.

If Robert hadn't been born, he wouldn't/couldn't have developed this website.

Contrex could, of course, remark on his father seeing a ghost, even tho' it was 1930, by using the present perfect.

Contrex: My father has seen a ghost. It was ...

This is the PP of experience.
0 Replies
 
 

Related Topics

deal - Question by WBYeats
Drs. = female doctor? - Question by oristarA
Let pupils abandon spelling rules, says academic - Discussion by Robert Gentel
Please, I need help. - Question by imsak
Is this sentence grammatically correct? - Question by Sydney-Strock
"come from" - Question by mcook
 
  1. Forums
  2. » has/had seen
  3. » Page 2
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 04/21/2019 at 05:23:08