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a question about tenses (using conditionals in the past)

 
 
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 02:37 pm
I had an English test and there was a text where I had to use verbs in correct tenses. The text was as follows:

The Sun and the Wind were arguing. They wanted to know which of them was stronger. The Wind thought that it was stronger but the Sun disagreed. They decided to hold a competition. The Sun and the Wind noticed a man with a coat. The wind wanted to demonstrate its strength and said that it would blow the coat off the man. If the Wind (succeed) in doing that it (be) stronger. So the wind started to blow. It blew and blew but in vain. Then the Sun tried....

What should the correct tenses of succeed and be be? Could had succeeded and would have been be used or should it be succeeded and would be? (The text was in the past and at that moment they did not know the result yet)

Looking forward to your answer

Jasper Adamson
a student from Estonia
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 1,426 • Replies: 16
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ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 02:47 pm
If the wind succeeded in doing that, it would be stronger.

(This is the best answer, but it is still awkward.)
0 Replies
 
Vivien
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 02:48 pm
yes - succeeded is correct

and

...succeeded in doing that would be the stronger....

how did you get on?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 02:49 pm
Most modern users of English would write:

"If the Wind succeeded in doing that ti would be stronger . . .

The "proper" form, however, would use the subjunctive for "to succeed," followed a conditional of "to be":

"If the Wind succeed in doing that it would be stronger . . . "

Help yourself, one is correct based on current usage, the other is correct based upon an anal dedication to "the rules."
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jasperadamson
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 02:50 pm
I used had succeeded and would have been. Is this definitely incorrect?
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 02:55 pm
Jasper, your answer is in fact, "more correct" than was mine--but the use of anterior past tenses has all but disappeared from English. That is a "textbook" conjugation, and would almost never be heard in the speech of a native English speaker. You might still find those who write that way, but they are becoming more rare.
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jasperadamson
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 03:08 pm
Thank you very much for your answers. I really appreciate your being so helpful. Could you also comment whether my answer (had succeeded+would have been) should be counted as a mistake?

Thank you once again for your help.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 03:12 pm
Jasper,

"had succeeded" is simply incorrect. For it to be correct the frame of reference must be the past to justify the present perfect tense.

Many Americans will initially think it's correct but only because of the declining use of perfect tenses in American English because this sometimes makes them overlook that there needs to be the proper context for the tense.

Because the frame of reference if the future you must not use present perfect as the tense.

Present perfect must be used in a reference to a past event.
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jasperadamson
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 03:23 pm
Craven de Kere,

I did not completely understand what you meant. The whole story was describing actions in the past and I did not use present perfect. I used past perfect. Could you please specify?
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 May, 2004 03:31 pm
Sorry, I meant "past perfect".

For past perfect to be justified you need to be describing the past of the past.

In other words, the past of a point already in the past.

e.g.

I had had lunch when I saw her.

Had lunch is the event prior to the saw her event.

You used the conditional in the past with correct structure but it should not be in the past because the next sentence shows that it was not finsihed.

The idea trying to be expressed is that at that point the wind would be sronger if it succeeded in doing something. Next comes the attempt.

Your construction assumes the subsequent failure of the attempt before it has actually been established.

For example:

If you had understood this post you'd not need this example.

I type the above before the conditional failed to be met and as such it's an error.

This is what I should write:

If you understand this post you'd not need more examples.
0 Replies
 
oristarA
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 May, 2004 12:58 am
I didn't get you very well Craven.

If I were you, I'd write:

If you understand this post you will not need more examples.

That is:

If you now understand this post you will no longer need more examples.

My reason for this is: your understanding it or not is unsure at present. If you understand it now, AND THEN (time goes from now to future) , you'll not need more examples.

Of course the answer
"If the Wind succeeded in doing that it would be stronger . . . " is perfect.
Because "would" is omnipotent? Rolling Eyes
0 Replies
 
kitchenpete
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 May, 2004 06:56 am
I agree with Craven's criticism of "had succeeded" and "would have been" - on the grounds that, at the point in time at which this story is set, the actions had not yet taken place.

"had succeeded" and "would have been" mean that the events were already over at the time of the story.

So, it would be perfectly reasonable to say:

"If the Spanish Armada had been successful in its voyage to England, Queen Elizabeth would have been deposed"...it's all in the past, and the outcome is already known.

I hope that's clearer.

KP
0 Replies
 
Vivien
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 May, 2004 08:26 am
Craven's grammar is as usual spot on - take that version as the correct one, I agree with KP
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 May, 2004 09:21 am
Setanta wrote:
Most modern users of English would write:

"If the Wind succeeded in doing that ti would be stronger . . .

The "proper" form, however, would use the subjunctive for "to succeed," followed a conditional of "to be":

"If the Wind succeed in doing that it would be stronger . . . "

Help yourself, one is correct based on current usage, the other is correct based upon an anal dedication to "the rules."

In the subjunctive mood, the past tense of all verbs except "to be" is identical to the simple past tense form. Thus, "if it succeeded" is correct: "if it succeed" (past tense) is incorrect.

On the other hand, "if it succeed" (present tense) would be technically correct, as the present tense form of verbs in the subjunctive mood is the same as the base (infinitive) form: i.e. the third-person singular form drops the final "-s" (the subjunctive mood, however, is typically avoided in all but the most hypertechnical speech, and subjunctive sentences are usually reworded using an auxiliary verb, such as "should" or "might").

In this example, the correct form is: "if the Wind succeeded in doing that it would be stronger." As Craven points out, the past perfect would be inappropriate, since the narrative structure of the story relies on a simple past tense throughout. Thus there is no "past past" before the recounting of the events.
0 Replies
 
Anavix
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 May, 2004 12:36 pm
Futher question
Can't this had succeeded/would have been not refer to completed action? I mean doesn't it depend on the emphasis? For example in one sense it could state that the action was completed, but on the other hand it may state some hopes, bearing in mind that the action took place in the past.

Because usually the second conditional refers to the present (succeeded, would be) and is used only in the present, but in this case it is used in the past (still referring to the present in the past, but it should be used in a past way). That is why I tend to doubt whether succeeded/would be is the only correct form.

I suppose that had succeeded/would have been is suitable as the action took place in the past and it does not necessarily have to be completed.
0 Replies
 
oristarA
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 May, 2004 06:23 am
Very Happy
Quote:
Your construction assumes the subsequent failure of the attempt before it has actually been established.


I reread the Craven's explanation for N times, and now GOT what he was saying!

(Craven's sentence:

If you understand this post you'd not need more examples.

It is as the same as Setenta's:

"If the Wind succeed in doing that it would be stronger . . . " )

Good! Craven!

============================================
But, does "If the Wind succeeded in doing that it would be stronger " not work?
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 May, 2004 10:25 am
oristarA wrote:
I didn't get you very well Craven.

If I were you, I'd write:

If you understand this post you will not need more examples.

That is:

If you now understand this post you will no longer need more examples.

My reason for this is: your understanding it or not is unsure at present. If you understand it now, AND THEN (time goes from now to future) , you'll not need more examples.

Of course the answer
"If the Wind succeeded in doing that it would be stronger . . . " is perfect.
Because "would" is omnipotent? Rolling Eyes


oristar, you are correct. I should have used will instead of would in order to convey real possibility versus a hypothetical.

Nice catch.
0 Replies
 
 

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