Discussion:
was or were in conditional clauses
(too old to reply)
Yurui Liu
2019-01-02 15:14:18 UTC
Permalink
Hi,

I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the
main clause of the following:

If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
was / were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.

I'd appreciate your help
CDB
2019-01-02 15:21:53 UTC
Permalink
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.

I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-02 15:25:44 UTC
Permalink
CDB於 2019年1月2日星期三 UTC+8下午11時21分55秒寫道:
Post by CDB
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative? In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't that be in the present tense?
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-02 16:03:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB於 2019年1月2日星期三 UTC+8下午11時21分55秒寫道:
Post by CDB
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative? In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't that be in the present tense?
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
You postulated the existence of such a building. (There was no reason to
suggest that such buildings don't exist, by the way.) For the purpose of
the discourse, the building is postulated to exist.

Please stop telling native speakers of English that they don't know how
to speak English.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-02 16:13:23 UTC
Permalink
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月3日星期四 UTC+8上午12時03分19秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB於 2019年1月2日星期三 UTC+8下午11時21分55秒寫道:
Post by CDB
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative? In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't that be in the present tense?
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
You postulated the existence of such a building. (There was no reason to
suggest that such buildings don't exist, by the way.) For the purpose of
the discourse, the building is postulated to exist.
Please stop telling native speakers of English that they don't know how
to speak English.
I'm merely seeking a logical explanation. '
If the said verb is in the indicative, why is't it "is"?
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2019-01-02 16:39:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月3日星期四 UTC+8上午12時03分19秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB於 2019年1月2日星期三 UTC+8下午11時21分55秒寫道:
Post by CDB
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main> >
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /> > >
Post by Yurui Liu
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative? In addition, even if the indicative should be used,
shouldn't that be in the present tense?
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
You postulated the existence of such a building. (There was no reason
to> suggest that such buildings don't exist, by the way.) For the
purpose of> the discourse, the building is postulated to exist.
Please stop telling native speakers of English that they don't know
how> to speak English.
I'm merely seeking a logical explanation.
No. You said 'I think "those whose offices were" would be even better,'
Post by Yurui Liu
If the said verb is in the indicative, why is't it "is"?
--
athel
Paul Carmichael
2019-01-02 18:02:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
No. You said 'I think "those whose offices were" would be even better,'
I think some attributions got lost somewhere.
--
Paul.

https://paulc.es/
https://asetrad.org
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2019-01-02 18:19:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Carmichael
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
No. You said 'I think "those whose offices were" would be even better,'
I think some attributions got lost somewhere.
Yes, you're right. I was replying to Yurui Liu's reply to PTD.

My newsreader was so horrified by my lack of decorum that it crashed
immediately after I read your comment.
--
athel
Yurui Liu
2019-01-03 10:45:05 UTC
Permalink
Athel Cornish-Bowden於 2019年1月3日星期四 UTC+8上午12時40分03秒寫道:
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月3日星期四 UTC+8上午12時03分19秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB於 2019年1月2日星期三 UTC+8下午11時21分55秒寫道:
Post by CDB
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main> >
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /> > >
Post by Yurui Liu
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative? In addition, even if the indicative should be used,
shouldn't that be in the present tense?
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
You postulated the existence of such a building. (There was no reason
to> suggest that such buildings don't exist, by the way.) For the
purpose of> the discourse, the building is postulated to exist.
Please stop telling native speakers of English that they don't know
how> to speak English.
I'm merely seeking a logical explanation.
No. You said 'I think "those whose offices were" would be even better,'
Those were CDB's words.
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Yurui Liu
If the said verb is in the indicative, why is't it "is"?
--
athel
CDB
2019-01-03 14:09:20 UTC
Permalink
Athel Cornish-Bowden:
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Peter T. Daniels:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB:
Post by Yurui Liu
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used
in the main> >
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose
office was /> > >
Post by Yurui Liu
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each
day.
I'd appreciate your help
indicative, not subjunctive.
Why the indicative? In addition, even if the indicative
should be used, shouldn't that be in the present tense?
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better,
unless all the stairclimbers had the same office.
You postulated the existence of such a building. (There was no
reason to> suggest that such buildings don't exist, by the
way.) For the purpose of> the discourse, the building is
postulated to exist.
Please stop telling native speakers of English that they don't
know how> to speak English.
I'm merely seeking a logical explanation.
No. You said 'I think "those whose offices were" would be even better,'
Those were CDB's words.
Not so much "better in general" as "better because it makes the choice
that puzzled you (between 'were' and 'was') disappear". The forms of
past subjunctive and past indicative (of 'to be') are only distinguished
in the singular.
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
If the said verb is in the indicative, why is't it "is"?
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-02 16:43:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月3日星期四 UTC+8上午12時03分19秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB於 2019年1月2日星期三 UTC+8下午11時21分55秒寫道:
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were"
or "is"
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
should be used in the main
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative? In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't that be in the present tense?
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
You postulated the existence of such a building. (There was no reason to
suggest that such buildings don't exist, by the way.) For the purpose of
the discourse, the building is postulated to exist.
Please stop telling native speakers of English that they don't know how
to speak English.
I'm merely seeking a logical explanation. '
If the said verb is in the indicative, why is't it "is"?
Logical?

That seems to be the rule, which I wouldn't have been able to state
before you asked this question.

"If I were you, I'd tell the boss as soon as I *found* out."

"If pigs had wings, we'd need shelter wherever they *flew"."

Actually, I still can't state the rule. Maybe it's just restrictive
clauses?
--
Jerry Friedman
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-02 16:48:10 UTC
Permalink
Peter T. Daniels 寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by CDB
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative? In addition, even if the indicative
could be used, shouldn't that be in the present tense?
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
You postulated the existence of such a building. (There was no reason to
suggest that such buildings don't exist, by the way.) For the purpose of
the discourse, the building is postulated to exist.
Please stop telling native speakers of English that they don't know how
to speak English.
I'm merely seeking a logical explanation.
If the said verb is in the indicative, why is't it "is"?
To understand why, you need to go back to basics.

If I have time, I will phone you.
If I had time, I would phone you.

The facts are identical. If time then phone, yet there
are two different sentences. Why?

The answer lies in how probable the event is.
probable -> indicative. (First conditional)
unlikely -> subjunctive. (Second conditional)

In the example you give the building does not exist.
Therefore you retreat into the subjunctive.

Other words used to show the to different situations:-
real or unreal
actual or hypothetical
CDB
2019-01-02 16:56:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB:
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was
/ were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative?
The existence of the building is hypothetical, but if it exists there is
little doubt that some people will occupy the eighteenth floor.
Post by Yurui Liu
In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't that be
in the present tense?
Good question. The rules governing the sequence of tenses call for a
past tense, I think. Another, shorter, answer is that my native-speaker
intuition says so.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless
all the stairclimbers had the same office.
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-02 18:18:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB:
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was
/ were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative?
The existence of the building is hypothetical,
And counterfactual, I'd say. The sentence is wrong because there are
twenty-story office buildings (and because they have elevators).
Post by CDB
but if it exists there is
little doubt that some people will occupy the eighteenth floor.
Post by Yurui Liu
In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't that be
in the present tense?
Good question. The rules governing the sequence of tenses call for a
past tense, I think.
Possibly because "would" and "should" are past tenses to some extent.
Post by CDB
Another, shorter, answer is that my native-speaker
intuition says so.


I'm thinking the past tense shows up in subordinate clauses about
things that exist only under the counterfactual hypothesis.

If there were a 2000-story office building and you worked on
the top floor, you'd need that oxygen tank that you *keep* in your
basement.

If there were a 2000-story office building and you worked on
the top floor, you'd probably have an oxygen mask that *plugged* into
a central supply.
--
Jerry Friedman
CDB
2019-01-02 21:06:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB:
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
was / were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each
day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative?
The existence of the building is hypothetical,
And counterfactual, I'd say.
Agreed. I didn't know if the OP was familiar with the term.
Post by Jerry Friedman
The sentence is wrong because there are twenty-story office
buildings (and because they have elevators).
I suppose one could imagine a justifying context. "There are no
government buildings over four storeys high on the island, because ...".
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by CDB
but if it exists there is little doubt that some people will
occupy the eighteenth floor.
Post by Yurui Liu
In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't
that be in the present tense?
Good question. The rules governing the sequence of tenses call
for a past tense, I think.
Possibly because "would" and "should" are past tenses to some
extent.
Yes, and here in the past tense as the "then"-clause of a
counterfactual condition using the past subjunctive. That's probably
what I was thinking of as "sequence of tenses".
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by CDB
Another, shorter, answer is that my native-speaker intuition says
so.

I'm thinking the past tense shows up in subordinate clauses about
things that exist only under the counterfactual hypothesis.
If there were a 2000-story office building and you worked on the top
floor, you'd need that oxygen tank that you *keep* in your basement.
If there were a 2000-story office building and you worked on the top
floor, you'd probably have an oxygen mask that *plugged* into a
central supply.
Yes, although I would have to make up another context. I don't think my
island had a reliable supply of electricity. Damn overhead wires.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-03 16:45:22 UTC
Permalink
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月3日星期四 UTC+8上午2時18分33秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB:
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was
/ were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative?
The existence of the building is hypothetical,
And counterfactual, I'd say. The sentence is wrong because there are
twenty-story office buildings (and because they have elevators).
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."

Would you say "was" above is indicative?
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by CDB
but if it exists there is
little doubt that some people will occupy the eighteenth floor.
Post by Yurui Liu
In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't that be
in the present tense?
Good question. The rules governing the sequence of tenses call for a
past tense, I think.
Possibly because "would" and "should" are past tenses to some extent.
Post by CDB
Another, shorter, answer is that my native-speaker
intuition says so.

I'm thinking the past tense shows up in subordinate clauses about
things that exist only under the counterfactual hypothesis.
Isn't such a "past tense" more appropriately termed a subjunctive?
Post by Jerry Friedman
If there were a 2000-story office building and you worked on
the top floor, you'd need that oxygen tank that you *keep* in your
basement.
If there were a 2000-story office building and you worked on
the top floor, you'd probably have an oxygen mask that *plugged* into
a central supply.
How about "If there were someone who was / were able to speak
more than 500 languages at native levels, he or she would be considered
a genius of some sort"?

Would you use "was" or "were"? I guess you'd go for "was," but would
you say it is an indicative past-tense form?
Post by Jerry Friedman
--
Jerry Friedman
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-03 17:18:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月3日星期四 UTC+8上午2時18分33秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB:
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was
/ were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative?
The existence of the building is hypothetical,
And counterfactual, I'd say. The sentence is wrong because there are
twenty-story office buildings (and because they have elevators).
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
That helps.
Post by Yurui Liu
Would you say "was" above is indicative?


In reference to English, people use "subjunctive" and "indicative"
(and other names of moods) in various ways. As far as I'm concerned,
these terminological matters are completely arbitrary.

Since you ask, my preference is to restrict "subjunctive" in English
morphologically: just "were" with singular subjects, "be" as a finite
verb, and maybe other verbs used in the same way. So I'd call that
"was" indicative and say that the past indicative is used in certain
constructions referring to hypothetical present-time situations.

However, I think other definitions can be used self-consistently, and
that includes definitions that make that "was" subjunctive. Then you
have three subjunctive forms of "be" that can refer to present
time: "be", "were", and "was". Do you need terminology to distinguish
them? You may well be willing to pay that price if it provides a
convenient way to explain why "is" isn't used in your examples.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm thinking the past tense shows up in subordinate clauses about
things that exist only under the counterfactual hypothesis.
Isn't such a "past tense" more appropriately termed a subjunctive?
Again, I think that appropriateness is a matter of taste.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
If there were a 2000-story office building and you worked on
the top floor, you'd need that oxygen tank that you *keep* in your
basement.
If there were a 2000-story office building and you worked on
the top floor, you'd probably have an oxygen mask that *plugged* into
a central supply.
How about "If there were someone who was / were able to speak
more than 500 languages at native levels, he or she would be considered
a genius of some sort"?
Would you use "was" or "were"? I guess you'd go for "was," but would
you say it is an indicative past-tense form?
Yes, "was". Yes, like the other examples, I'd call that one
indicative past-tense, but I won't call anyone wrong for disagreeing.
--
Jerry Friedman
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-04 00:30:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.

There are DIFFERENT WAYS of expressing a conditional in English depending
on whether the situation is:-
A true/likely/factual or
B false/unlikely/impossible/counterfactual.

A - the likely one - is constructed with the present simple and the future.
If we have the money, we will buy some sandwiches.

B - unlikely - If we had the money we would buy a yacht.

If your first language is Spanish or Italian or French or German,
then you will know that here "had" is subjunctive/conjunctive

If your first language is (say) from Asia, it is considered far too
difficult to teach you all about the subjunctive when it is
easier just to call "had" the past tense because most forms of the
subjunctive for these sentences are identical with those of the past.

If I had the money, I would...
If you had the money, you would...
If he had the money, he would...
If we had the money, we would...
If they had the money, they would...

The difficulty comes with "was" and "were" because in this instance
the subjunctive and the past are different.

Strictly speaking, you should say
"If I were...
"If there were...

but this is different from the past tense with "was"
so it is just referred to as an "exception"

The most direct thing to say about your sentence is that
"were" is CORRECT and "was" is WRONG.

However some people use this form, and it is tolerated
to some extent.

I appreciate that Mandarin/Simplified Text is not exactly
appropriate for an answer here, but my Mandarin grammar book
(Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington) does not seem to cover
counterfactual conditionals.
I then searched on Baidu - which again is not entirely
appropriate for here. The example that I can understand
does not seem to make any change for the counterfactual.
"If I were you, I would study more.
如果我是你,我会学得更多。 or
如果我是你,我(以前)会好好学习的。
To me the literal translation of the first half is "If I am you"
One poster writes "The conditional sentences in Chinese
are simpler than in English"

So there are two hurdles to understanding
1 True/likely/factual uses a different set of tenses
to unreal/impossible/counterfactual
and
2 The subjunctive is a difficult concept to get
across to those without subjunctive in their own
first language, and the easy way is to call it a past
tense and to declare the "were instead of was" situation to be
an exception.

Good Luck!
Yurui Liu
2019-01-04 12:16:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
Dictionary of English Grammar defines "indicative" as follows:

(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.

If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?
Post by s***@my-deja.com
There are DIFFERENT WAYS of expressing a conditional in English depending
on whether the situation is:-
A true/likely/factual or
B false/unlikely/impossible/counterfactual.
A - the likely one - is constructed with the present simple and the future.
If we have the money, we will buy some sandwiches.
B - unlikely - If we had the money we would buy a yacht.
If your first language is Spanish or Italian or French or German,
then you will know that here "had" is subjunctive/conjunctive
If your first language is (say) from Asia, it is considered far too
difficult to teach you all about the subjunctive when it is
easier just to call "had" the past tense because most forms of the
subjunctive for these sentences are identical with those of the past.
If I had the money, I would...
If you had the money, you would...
If he had the money, he would...
If we had the money, we would...
If they had the money, they would...
The difficulty comes with "was" and "were" because in this instance
the subjunctive and the past are different.
Strictly speaking, you should say
"If I were...
"If there were...
but this is different from the past tense with "was"
so it is just referred to as an "exception"
The most direct thing to say about your sentence is that
"were" is CORRECT and "was" is WRONG.
However some people use this form, and it is tolerated
to some extent.
I appreciate that Mandarin/Simplified Text is not exactly
appropriate for an answer here, but my Mandarin grammar book
(Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington) does not seem to cover
counterfactual conditionals.
I then searched on Baidu - which again is not entirely
appropriate for here. The example that I can understand
does not seem to make any change for the counterfactual.
"If I were you, I would study more.
如果我是你,我会学得更多。 or
如果我是你,我(以前)会好好学习的。
To me the literal translation of the first half is "If I am you"
One poster writes "The conditional sentences in Chinese
are simpler than in English"
So there are two hurdles to understanding
1 True/likely/factual uses a different set of tenses
to unreal/impossible/counterfactual
and
2 The subjunctive is a difficult concept to get
across to those without subjunctive in their own
first language, and the easy way is to call it a past
tense and to declare the "were instead of was" situation to be
an exception.
Good Luck!
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-05 01:11:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?
Thank you. Now that you have given the starting point, it is easier
to give a more specific answer.

I would say that the counterfactual conditional requires a subjunctive.
and that the version with "was" is not indicative but just wrong.

There were many years when UK schools did not teach grammar, so the
idea of the subjunctive could not easily be conveyed to pupils (as they
then were called) who did not have a firm grasp of the basics.

As previously mentioned calling the verb "past" works perfectly
well with everything apart from "to be", which had to be called
an exception. Anybody with a logical mind might find this totally
non intuitive in the absence of a fuller explanation.

So the version with "was" does exist, and has a degree of acceptance,
but the users do not intend the meaning to change.

Contrast all this with the Spanish, where there are separate subjunctive
tenses.

The example I like uses the Spanish for "I sing" - canto in the
normal indicative mood and cante in the subjunctive.

"My brother wants me to sing" would be expressed as
"My brother wants that I sing"

So "I sing. My brother wants that I sing"
becomes (translating only the two versions of "I sing")
"Canto. My brother wants that (I) cante".

A pain to learn, but clear which mood is being used.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-05 03:54:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?
Thank you. Now that you have given the starting point, it is easier
to give a more specific answer.
I would say that the counterfactual conditional requires a subjunctive.
and that the version with "was" is not indicative but just wrong.
There were many years when UK schools did not teach grammar, so the
idea of the subjunctive could not easily be conveyed to pupils (as they
then were called) who did not have a firm grasp of the basics.
As previously mentioned calling the verb "past" works perfectly
well with everything apart from "to be", which had to be called
an exception. Anybody with a logical mind might find this totally
non intuitive in the absence of a fuller explanation.
So the version with "was" does exist, and has a degree of acceptance,
but the users do not intend the meaning to change.
My examples actually do not reflect the situation you're talking about.
Consider them again:

a. If there were a 20-story office building without an elevator,
those whose office "was" on the 18th floor would climb many steps
each day.

b. If there were someone who "was" able to speak over 500 languages
at native levels, he would be considered a genius of some sort.

Here "was" is used to describe hypothetical situations and is
considered correct even in Standard American English

People here are trying to explain this in terms of "sequence of tenses,"
but those "past-tense" verbs above are not really indicative, but
subjunctive. So I don't see how such an account could work.
If instead we explain this in terms of "sequence of moods," we will
have to recognize two past-subjunctive forms of the English verb "be."
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Contrast all this with the Spanish, where there are separate subjunctive
tenses.
The example I like uses the Spanish for "I sing" - canto in the
normal indicative mood and cante in the subjunctive.
"My brother wants me to sing" would be expressed as
"My brother wants that I sing"
So "I sing. My brother wants that I sing"
becomes (translating only the two versions of "I sing")
"Canto. My brother wants that (I) cante".
A pain to learn, but clear which mood is being used.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-05 15:31:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
My examples actually do not reflect the situation you're talking about.
a. If there were a 20-story office building without an elevator,
those whose office "was" on the 18th floor would climb many steps
each day.
b. If there were someone who "was" able to speak over 500 languages
at native levels, he would be considered a genius of some sort.
Here "was" is used to describe hypothetical situations and is
considered correct even in Standard American English
People here are trying to explain this in terms of "sequence of tenses,"
but those "past-tense" verbs above are not really indicative, but
subjunctive. So I don't see how such an account could work.
If instead we explain this in terms of "sequence of moods," we will
have to recognize two past-subjunctive forms of the English verb "be."
Your sentences are flawed.

Nobody has an office on the eighteenth floor because the building does
not exist.
If there were a 20 storey building with only stairs, then anybody
who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise.

Equally the 500 language polyglot does not exist.
If anyone could speak 500 languages fluently they would be considered a genius.
If anybody were able to speak 500 languages fluently they would be
considered a genius.

The confusion arises because you are postulating hypothetical situations,
then going on to treat them as if they were factual.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-06 04:56:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
My examples actually do not reflect the situation you're talking about.
a. If there were a 20-story office building without an elevator,
those whose office "was" on the 18th floor would climb many steps
each day.
b. If there were someone who "was" able to speak over 500 languages
at native levels, he would be considered a genius of some sort.
Here "was" is used to describe hypothetical situations and is
considered correct even in Standard American English
People here are trying to explain this in terms of "sequence of tenses,"
but those "past-tense" verbs above are not really indicative, but
subjunctive. So I don't see how such an account could work.
If instead we explain this in terms of "sequence of moods," we will
have to recognize two past-subjunctive forms of the English verb "be."
Your sentences are flawed.
Nobody has an office on the eighteenth floor because the building does
not exist.
If there were a 20 storey building with only stairs, then anybody
who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise.
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are as counterfactual
and hypothetical as your "If there were a 20 storey building with only
stairs, then anybody who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Equally the 500 language polyglot does not exist.
Right. That's why my polyglot sentence begins with "If there WERE
someone who was able to ..."
Post by s***@my-deja.com
If anyone could speak 500 languages fluently they would be considered a genius.
If anybody were able to speak 500 languages fluently they would be
considered a genius.
The confusion arises because you are postulating hypothetical situations,
then going on to treat them as if they were factual.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-06 19:10:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are as counterfactual
and hypothetical as your "If there were a 20 storey building with only
stairs, then anybody who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
Sigh!

Please google "horses mid stream" and work it out yourself from there.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-06 22:22:52 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are as counterfactual
and hypothetical as your "If there were a 20 storey building with only
stairs, then anybody who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
Sigh!
Please google "horses mid stream" and work it out yourself from there.
You have yet to explain the differences between your examples and mine.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-11 00:55:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are as counterfactual
and hypothetical as your "If there were a 20 storey building with only
stairs, then anybody who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
Sigh!
Please google "horses mid stream" and work it out yourself from there.
You have yet to explain the differences between your examples and mine.
Have you googled "horses mid stream" yet,

Earlier on you refuted a claim that you were trying to teach
native speakers their own language, by saying "I'm merely seeking
a logical explanation"

You then told me that you knew the basics, but yet had then to
ask what the indicative was.

The subjunctive is hard enough for native English speakers
to understand, never mind somebody who does not have this
feature in their mother tongue.

If you keep everything unreal/counterfactual within the pattern
"If I had, I would" and not stray in to the real/factual mode
for following sentences then everybody will understand you clearly.

That surely is an end to be desired.

The answer to the question in your original post is "were"
Yurui Liu
2019-01-12 03:57:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are as counterfactual
and hypothetical as your "If there were a 20 storey building with only
stairs, then anybody who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
Sigh!
Please google "horses mid stream" and work it out yourself from there.
You have yet to explain the differences between your examples and mine.
Have you googled "horses mid stream" yet,
Earlier on you refuted a claim that you were trying to teach
native speakers their own language, by saying "I'm merely seeking
a logical explanation"
You then told me that you knew the basics, but yet had then to
ask what the indicative was.
Typical cases of the the indicative are fairly easy, but
the example in the embedded-clause context of the OP is rather
different; no one had ever defined or recognized the indicative in
a way involving unreal situations. Once people claimed "was" as in "
whose office was on the 18th floor" is indicative, they would
have a hard time explaining why "was" in "If he was a billionaire,
he would buy a Cadillac" in informal British English (or other
closely related varieties) is not indicative.

And the basic stuff you were preaching hardly addresses the issue.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The subjunctive is hard enough for native English speakers
to understand, never mind somebody who does not have this
feature in their mother tongue.
If you keep everything unreal/counterfactual within the pattern
"If I had, I would" and not stray in to the real/factual mode
for following sentences then everybody will understand you clearly.
That surely is an end to be desired.
The answer to the question in your original post is "were"
Really? The sentence in the OP is as follows:

If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
"was / were" on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.

Are you saying "were" should be used instead of "was" in
the relative clause?
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-14 01:26:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are
as counterfactual and hypothetical as your "If there
were a 20 storey building with only stairs, then anybody
who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
You left out the following part which contained the indicative,
thus indicating that the message had not been understood
Post by Yurui Liu
Typical cases of the the indicative are fairly easy, but
the example in the embedded-clause context of the OP is rather
different; no one had ever defined or recognized the indicative in
a way involving unreal situations. Once people claimed "was" as in "
whose office was on the 18th floor" is indicative, they would
have a hard time explaining why "was" in "If he was a billionaire,
he would buy a Cadillac" in informal British English (or other
closely related varieties) is not indicative.
It is just WRONG. Because "were" is not the appropriate form of the
past tense, it is taught as an exception, which not everybody has
taken on board. Present day learners of UK English are not taught
about the subjunctive because they are no longer compelled to learn
another language (such as French) in which it has a clear and
distinct form using words which do not already exist in the indicative.
Post by Yurui Liu
And the basic stuff you were preaching hardly addresses the issue.
You have given me no cause to believe that you have fully accepted
the idea.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The subjunctive is hard enough for native English speakers
to understand, never mind somebody who does not have this
feature in their mother tongue.
If you keep everything unreal/counterfactual within the pattern
"If I had, I would" and not stray in to the real/factual mode
for following sentences then everybody will understand you clearly.
That surely is an end to be desired.
*The answer to the question in your original post is "were"*
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
"was / were" on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
Are you saying "were" should be used instead of "was" in
the relative clause?
No. That was a slip, sorry.
I had already posted that NOBODY has an office on the
eighteenth floor because the building does not exist.
"Anyone who had an office" is what should be there.

My point is that when you start in the counterfactual you MUST remain
in the counterfactual until the end of the entire passage. It is not
good enough to use the counterfactual in the first sentence then slip
back to the factual thereafter. Such action produces a dog's breakfast.

Take "If there were a high building without a lift, anybody who
had an office on the eighteenth floor would be very tired"
Using the wrong script and possibly the wrong dialect this translates as
如果有一座没有电梯的高楼,那么在18楼有办公室的人会非常疲惫。
It is all in the indicative, because the subjunctive does not exist.

I believe you are suffering from L1 interference and do not really
understand nor believe your requirement to stay in the counterfactual
all the way through until you have finished everything you are going to
say about the imaginary building.

The above is intended to help you write grammatical English and is not be
treated in the manner of trench warfare with fighting over every comma.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-14 05:26:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Typical cases of the the indicative are fairly easy, but
the example in the embedded-clause context of the OP is rather
different; no one had ever defined or recognized the indicative in
a way involving unreal situations. Once people claimed "was" as in "
whose office was on the 18th floor" is indicative, they would
have a hard time explaining why "was" in "If he was a billionaire,
he would buy a Cadillac" in informal British English (or other
closely related varieties) is not indicative.
It is just WRONG. Because "were" is not the appropriate form of the
past tense, it is taught as an exception, which not everybody has
taken on board. Present day learners of UK English are not taught
about the subjunctive because they are no longer compelled to learn
another language (such as French) in which it has a clear and
distinct form using words which do not already exist in the indicative.
What an odd statement. People don't speak their native language because
they're taught about it in school; they speak the language that is spoken
all around them. And the subjunctive is alive and well in American English.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-15 12:13:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are
as counterfactual and hypothetical as your "If there
were a 20 storey building with only stairs, then anybody
who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
You left out the following part which contained the indicative,
thus indicating that the message had not been understood
Post by Yurui Liu
Typical cases of the the indicative are fairly easy, but
the example in the embedded-clause context of the OP is rather
different; no one had ever defined or recognized the indicative in
a way involving unreal situations. Once people claimed "was" as in "
whose office was on the 18th floor" is indicative, they would
have a hard time explaining why "was" in "If he was a billionaire,
he would buy a Cadillac" in informal British English (or other
closely related varieties) is not indicative.
It is just WRONG. Because "were" is not the appropriate form of the
past tense, it is taught as an exception, which not everybody has
What are you saying is WRONG? The British use of "was" as in "If he
was a billionaire, he would buy a Cadillac"? Your assessment may be
"right," but only in a prescriptive sense.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
taken on board. Present day learners of UK English are not taught
about the subjunctive because they are no longer compelled to learn
another language (such as French) in which it has a clear and
distinct form using words which do not already exist in the indicative.
Post by Yurui Liu
And the basic stuff you were preaching hardly addresses the issue.
You have given me no cause to believe that you have fully accepted
the idea.
And you have yet to provide watertight definitions of the indicative
and the subjunctive without reference to morphological paradigms.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The subjunctive is hard enough for native English speakers
to understand, never mind somebody who does not have this
feature in their mother tongue.
If you keep everything unreal/counterfactual within the pattern
"If I had, I would" and not stray in to the real/factual mode
for following sentences then everybody will understand you clearly.
That surely is an end to be desired.
*The answer to the question in your original post is "were"*
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
"was / were" on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
Are you saying "were" should be used instead of "was" in
the relative clause?
No. That was a slip, sorry.
I had already posted that NOBODY has an office on the
eighteenth floor because the building does not exist.
"Anyone who had an office" is what should be there.
My point is that when you start in the counterfactual you MUST remain
in the counterfactual until the end of the entire passage. It is not
good enough to use the counterfactual in the first sentence then slip
I knew that. Several posts ago I mentioned a backshifting, or projection,
account that conveys the same idea.

But at this point, have you noticed you have said the "WAS" as in
"If there were a 20-story office building without an elevator,
those whose office WAS on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day"
is indicative and yet you are saying it is counterfactural?

Again, watertight definitions of the indicative and the subjunctive
are needed.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
back to the factual thereafter. Such action produces a dog's breakfast.
Take "If there were a high building without a lift, anybody who
had an office on the eighteenth floor would be very tired"
Using the wrong script and possibly the wrong dialect this translates as
如果有一座没有电梯的高楼,那么在18楼有办公室的人会非常疲惫。
It is all in the indicative, because the subjunctive does not exist.
I believe you are suffering from L1 interference and do not really
understand nor believe your requirement to stay in the counterfactual
all the way through until you have finished everything you are going to
say about the imaginary building.
The above is intended to help you write grammatical English and is not be
treated in the manner of trench warfare with fighting over every comma.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-15 15:37:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
And you have yet to provide watertight definitions of the indicative
and the subjunctive without reference to morphological paradigms.
?? That's how morphological categories are defined.

PLEASE stop telling native speakers of English, some with linguistic
training, that they don't know what they're talking about.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-20 03:17:08 UTC
Permalink
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月15日星期二 UTC+8下午11時37分20秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
And you have yet to provide watertight definitions of the indicative
and the subjunctive without reference to morphological paradigms.
?? That's how morphological categories are defined.
What would you call the "was" as in "if he was a billionaire now, he
would buy a Cadillac"? A past tense? Is the subjunctive a mere
morphological concept for you?
Post by Peter T. Daniels
PLEASE stop telling native speakers of English, some with linguistic
training, that they don't know what they're talking about.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-20 14:39:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月15日星期二 UTC+8下午11時37分20秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
And you have yet to provide watertight definitions of the indicative
and the subjunctive without reference to morphological paradigms.
?? That's how morphological categories are defined.
What would you call the "was" as in "if he was a billionaire now, he
would buy a Cadillac"? A past tense? Is the subjunctive a mere
morphological concept for you?
In American English, a mistake.

You could use that clause in, e.g., "If he was a billionaire back then,
then he must be a trillionaire now!"
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Peter T. Daniels
PLEASE stop telling native speakers of English, some with linguistic
training, that they don't know what they're talking about.
Yurui Liu
2019-01-20 15:46:10 UTC
Permalink
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月20日星期日 UTC+8下午10時39分11秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月15日星期二 UTC+8下午11時37分20秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
And you have yet to provide watertight definitions of the indicative
and the subjunctive without reference to morphological paradigms.
?? That's how morphological categories are defined.
What would you call the "was" as in "if he was a billionaire now, he
would buy a Cadillac"? A past tense? Is the subjunctive a mere
morphological concept for you?
In American English, a mistake.
What about informal British English, where such forms are attested?
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You could use that clause in, e.g., "If he was a billionaire back then,
then he must be a trillionaire now!"
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Peter T. Daniels
PLEASE stop telling native speakers of English, some with linguistic
training, that they don't know what they're talking about.
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-20 16:44:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月20日星期日 UTC+8下午10時39分11秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月15日星期二 UTC+8下午11時37分20秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
And you have yet to provide watertight definitions of the indicative
and the subjunctive without reference to morphological paradigms.
?? That's how morphological categories are defined.
What would you call the "was" as in "if he was a billionaire now, he
would buy a Cadillac"? A past tense? Is the subjunctive a mere
morphological concept for you?
In American English, a mistake.
What about informal British English, where such forms are attested?
...
They're amply attested in informal American English too.
--
Jerry Friedman
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-20 17:15:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月20日星期日 UTC+8下午10時39分11秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
Peter T. Daniels於 2019年1月15日星期二 UTC+8下午11時37分20秒寫道:
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Yurui Liu
And you have yet to provide watertight definitions of the indicative
and the subjunctive without reference to morphological paradigms.
?? That's how morphological categories are defined.
What would you call the "was" as in "if he was a billionaire now, he
would buy a Cadillac"? A past tense? Is the subjunctive a mere
morphological concept for you?
In American English, a mistake.
What about informal British English, where such forms are attested?
Not my problem.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You could use that clause in, e.g., "If he was a billionaire back then,
then he must be a trillionaire now!"
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Peter T. Daniels
PLEASE stop telling native speakers of English, some with linguistic
training, that they don't know what they're talking about.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-21 17:31:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
What about informal British English, where such forms are attested?
很土
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-22 01:15:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
What about informal British English, where such forms are attested?
Forms? Only one word - "was" for "were".



Very old story:-
Professor in Chemistry class:
We will soon have a visit form an expert on the shape of molecules.
Student: I did not know that anybody was working on that.
Professor: Spatio molecular configuration.
Student: Oh! I have heard of that.

Moral: Do not use complicated words unless they are strictly necessary.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-15 15:55:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
What are you saying is WRONG? The British use of "was" as in "If he
was a billionaire, he would buy a Cadillac"? Your assessment may be
"right," but only in a prescriptive sense.
Exactly. Once you have taken on board that "were" is the 100percent
grammatically correct version, but that "was" has become accepted
because there were many years in which grammar was not taught in
UK schools, then progress has been made"
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The above is intended to help you write grammatical English and is not be
treated in the manner of trench warfare with fighting over every comma.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-15 21:34:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
What are you saying is WRONG? The British use of "was" as in "If he
was a billionaire, he would buy a Cadillac"? Your assessment may be
"right," but only in a prescriptive sense.
Exactly. Once you have taken on board that "were" is the 100percent
grammatically correct version, but that "was" has become accepted
because there were many years in which grammar was not taught in
UK schools, then progress has been made"
No, that "grammar" was or was not taught in schools has nothing whatsoever
to do with whether the young'uns heard the subjunctive used in the speech
community that was raising them and therefore acquired its idiomatic use.

I don't recall ever being taught about subjunctives in "grammar" class,
but as a native speaker of American English I have a full command of
exactly when and when not to use such forms, because they are fully
current in the language.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The above is intended to help you write grammatical English and is not be
treated in the manner of trench warfare with fighting over every comma.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-19 00:33:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
No, that "grammar" was or was not taught in schools has nothing whatsoever
to do with whether the young'uns heard the subjunctive used in the speech
community that was raising them and therefore acquired its idiomatic use.
I don't recall ever being taught about subjunctives in "grammar" class,
but as a native speaker of American English I have a full command of
exactly when and when not to use such forms, because they are fully
current in the language.
That is plausible, but the subjunctive was taught at UK schools,
albeit using the vehicle of French - the language of our nearest
neighbours, if you exclude the celtic languages - then highly
discouraged.

I have two memories in particular of statements of teachers.

An English teacher said "We have got rid of all the grammar"
A teacher of French said that it was she who had to teach
the pupils English Grammar, because the concepts were necessary
in order to teach French effectively.

Counterfactual conditionals are taught using the past tense.
"If I were" is treated as an "exception".
"If I was" has become widely used.

Grammar teaching has been reintroduced in recent years.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-19 03:46:49 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Peter T. Daniels
No, that "grammar" was or was not taught in schools has nothing whatsoever
to do with whether the young'uns heard the subjunctive used in the speech
community that was raising them and therefore acquired its idiomatic use.
I don't recall ever being taught about subjunctives in "grammar" class,
but as a native speaker of American English I have a full command of
exactly when and when not to use such forms, because they are fully
current in the language.
That is plausible, but the subjunctive was taught at UK schools,
albeit using the vehicle of French - the language of our nearest
neighbours, if you exclude the celtic languages - then highly
discouraged.
I have two memories in particular of statements of teachers.
An English teacher said "We have got rid of all the grammar"
A teacher of French said that it was she who had to teach
the pupils English Grammar, because the concepts were necessary
in order to teach French effectively.
They weren't teaching the grammar of English. (If the kids hadn't acquired
that before they went to school, they were "retarded.") They were teaching
them what passed for grammatical analysis back when they insisted that
English was just badly spelt Latin.

Learning to use the French subjunctive had no effect whatsoever on your
English speech. As this thread has shown, they're not much alike at all,
anyway.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Counterfactual conditionals are taught using the past tense.
"If I were" is treated as an "exception".
"If I was" has become widely used.
In _your_ country.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Grammar teaching has been reintroduced in recent years.
Hopefully not as if it were Latin again.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-26 21:44:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
They weren't teaching the grammar of English. (If the kids hadn't acquired
that before they went to school, they were "retarded.") They were teaching
them what passed for grammatical analysis back when they insisted that
English was just badly spelt Latin.
Perhaps that was true for you. As far as I am concerned, explaining the difference in use of "I will" and "I shall" in class counts as grammar.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Learning to use the French subjunctive had no effect whatsoever on your
English speech. As this thread has shown, they're not much alike at all,
anyway.
Maybe not, but it sure gives a plausible explanation for the exception.

As we have seen, to convince someone with no tenses is harder.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Counterfactual conditionals are taught using the past tense.
"If I were" is treated as an "exception".
"If I was" has become widely used.
In _your_ country.
Because of the lack of the teaching of grammar.

You now agree that BrE and AmE may have cases of different usage.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Grammar teaching has been reintroduced in recent years.
Hopefully not as if it were Latin again.
American English is full of Germanisms. The word you use to start your last sentence is a relatively recent import in BrE.

Linguaphone had to explain that the sense which you use of "hoffentlich"
did not exist in English, and it that meant "Let us hope" or "It is to be hoped". At that time "hopefully" was confined to situations such as "They travelled hopefully, fully expecting the news to be good when they arrived."
Yurui Liu
2019-01-15 12:27:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are
as counterfactual and hypothetical as your "If there
were a 20 storey building with only stairs, then anybody
who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
You left out the following part which contained the indicative,
thus indicating that the message had not been understood
Well, (according to most people) the indicative verb "worked" is
already there, pending definitions of the subjunctive and the
indicative.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-22 01:28:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Well, (according to most people) the indicative verb "worked" is
already there, pending definitions of the subjunctive and the
indicative.
Please practise your input skills, and try to understand all that
has been written to you. Your understanding of the basics is
not at the level that you think it is.

"Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours every week,
he would earn more money"

The first "worked" is indicative, because he did.
The second "worked" is subjunctive because he does not.

The context and the form of the sentence tell you which is which, because the past and the subjunctive use an IDENTICAL WORD.

The concept should not be alien to you as in 他画画儿, the
first 画 is a verb (paints) and the second 画 is a noun (pictures).
Yurui Liu
2019-01-26 03:25:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Well, (according to most people) the indicative verb "worked" is
already there, pending definitions of the subjunctive and the
indicative.
Please practise your input skills, and try to understand all that
has been written to you. Your understanding of the basics is
not at the level that you think it is.
"Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours every week,
he would earn more money"
The first "worked" is indicative, because he did.
The second "worked" is subjunctive because he does not.
The sentence "If there were a 20=story building with only stairs,
then anybody who WORKED on the 18th floor would get a lot of
exercise." is modeled "If there were a 20=story building without elevators,
then those whose office WAS on the 18th floor would climb many steps
each day."

Since most people in this thread regard the "WAS" as an indicative, how
could the "WORKED" be regarded as a subjunctive?
What's your criterion?
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The context and the form of the sentence tell you which is which, because the past and the subjunctive use an IDENTICAL WORD.
The concept should not be alien to you as in 他画画儿, the
first 画 is a verb (paints) and the second 画 is a noun (pictures).
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-26 18:26:28 UTC
Permalink
semiretired wrote :
Post by s***@my-deja.com
"Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours every week,
he would earn more money"
The first "worked" is indicative, because he did.
The second "worked" is subjunctive because he does not.
The sentence "If there were a 20=story building with only stairs,
then anybody who WORKED on the 18th floor would get a lot of
exercise." is modeled "If there were a 20=story building without elevators,
then those whose office WAS on the 18th floor would climb many steps
each day."
Since most people in this thread regard the "WAS" as an indicative, how
could the "WORKED" be regarded as a subjunctive?
What's your criterion?
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The context and the form of the sentence tell you which is which,
because the past and the subjunctive use an IDENTICAL WORD.
The concept should not be alien to you as in 他画画儿, the
first 画 is a verb (paints) and the second 画 is a noun (pictures).
The word "worked" can be subjunctive or indicative, depending on context.
The written character 画 can be a verb or a noun, depending on context.
"reading" is an activity
"Reading" is a city.
"While the train paused in Reading, he was reading a book"

When you see "worked" you have to use your knowledge
and experience to decide what it means.

"I worked ten hours" is past simple.
"If I worked ten hours, I would ..." is subjunctive.

The two are identical in 99.99 percent of verbs.

The only verb where they are not identical is "to be"
"His office was blue." is past simple and "true"
The time referred to is in the past - "then" - 那时侯

"If his office were red, he would be much happier" is subjunctive
and "not true"
The time referred to is "now" 今天 。

Because "to be" is the only exception, some people say
"If his office was red..." which is "wrong".

To summarise:-
"If I were..." is correct grammar
"If I was..." is incorrect grammar,(很土) which some people use.
It is much better to use "If I were", although if you use "If I
was" you will be understood without question.

If this is now clear, we can go back to the imaginary 20 storey building.
"If there were a 20 storey building with no lift some people would
be very tired"
No problem, a perfectly straightforward second conditional.

The difficulty arises when you put an extra verb in the middle.
The best thing to do is to reinforce that this is an imaginary
building. "Anybody who had" does reinforce that this is an
imaginary building.

"Those whose office was" is out of place in an imaginary situation
because it sounds as the building were real.
"Those whose office were" falls foul of singular/plural agreement
"Those whose offices were" is just about acceptable, but the sentence
is much better using "to have" (where "had" is clearly subjunctive)
rather than "to be" where there may be some confusion.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-26 19:55:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
semiretired wrote :
Post by s***@my-deja.com
"Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours every week,
he would earn more money"
The first "worked" is indicative, because he did.
The second "worked" is subjunctive because he does not.
The sentence "If there were a 20=story building with only stairs,
then anybody who WORKED on the 18th floor would get a lot of
exercise." is modeled "If there were a 20=story building without elevators,
then those whose office WAS on the 18th floor would climb many steps
each day."
Since most people in this thread regard the "WAS" as an indicative, how
could the "WORKED" be regarded as a subjunctive?
What's your criterion?
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The context and the form of the sentence tell you which is which,
because the past and the subjunctive use an IDENTICAL WORD.
The concept should not be alien to you as in 他画画儿, the
first 画 is a verb (paints) and the second 画 is a noun (pictures).
The word "worked" can be subjunctive or indicative, depending on context.
The written character 画 can be a verb or a noun, depending on context.
"reading" is an activity
"Reading" is a city.
"While the train paused in Reading, he was reading a book"
When you see "worked" you have to use your knowledge
and experience to decide what it means.
"I worked ten hours" is past simple.
"If I worked ten hours, I would ..." is subjunctive.
The two are identical in 99.99 percent of verbs.
You're overlooking the examples where the 3sg.pres. doesn't take the -s
ending. Of course I can't come up with one right now, but it sticks out,
sore-thumb like, in edited British prose that flouts the practice!
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The only verb where they are not identical is "to be"
"His office was blue." is past simple and "true"
The time referred to is in the past - "then" - 那时侯
"If his office were red, he would be much happier" is subjunctive
and "not true"
The time referred to is "now" 今天 。
Because "to be" is the only exception, some people say
"If his office was red..." which is "wrong".
To summarise:-
"If I were..." is correct grammar
"If I was..." is incorrect grammar,(很土) which some people use.
It is much better to use "If I were", although if you use "If I
was" you will be understood without question.
If this is now clear, we can go back to the imaginary 20 storey building.
"If there were a 20 storey building with no lift some people would
be very tired"
No problem, a perfectly straightforward second conditional.
The difficulty arises when you put an extra verb in the middle.
The best thing to do is to reinforce that this is an imaginary
building. "Anybody who had" does reinforce that this is an
imaginary building.
"Those whose office was" is out of place in an imaginary situation
because it sounds as the building were real.
"Those whose office were" falls foul of singular/plural agreement
"Those whose offices were" is just about acceptable, but the sentence
is much better using "to have" (where "had" is clearly subjunctive)
rather than "to be" where there may be some confusion.
Peter Moylan
2019-01-27 00:46:56 UTC
Permalink
"If his office were red, he would be much happier" is subjunctive and
"not true"
Just to clarify a point that a lot of people seem to have missed: in
that sort of "if" sentence, English grammar requires that the first verb
be subjunctive, and the second one be past indicative.

In the present example, "would" is not in the subjunctive mood. It is
simply the past tense of "will".

(Of course this doesn't change the fact that "would" has multiple
meanings, depending on the sentence.)
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Yurui Liu
2019-01-26 03:29:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Well, (according to most people) the indicative verb "worked" is
already there, pending definitions of the subjunctive and the
indicative.
Please practise your input skills, and try to understand all that
has been written to you. Your understanding of the basics is
not at the level that you think it is.
"Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours every week,
he would earn more money"
The first "worked" is indicative, because he did.
The second "worked" is subjunctive because he does not.
The sentence "If there were a 20-story building with only stairs,
then anybody who WORKED on the 18th floor would get a lot of
exercise." is modeled on "If there were a 20-story building without
elevators, then those whose office WAS on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."

Since most people in this thread regard the "WAS" as an indicative, how
could the "WORKED" be regarded as a subjunctive?

What's your criterion?
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The context and the form of the sentence tell you which is which, because the past and the subjunctive use an IDENTICAL WORD.
The concept should not be alien to you as in 他画画儿, the
first 画 is a verb (paints) and the second 画 is a noun (pictures).
CDB
2019-01-26 05:07:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Well, (according to most people) the indicative verb "worked" is
already there, pending definitions of the subjunctive and the
indicative.
Please practise your input skills, and try to understand all that
has been written to you. Your understanding of the basics is not at
the level that you think it is.
"Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours every
week, he would earn more money"
The first "worked" is indicative, because he did. The second
"worked" is subjunctive because he does not.
The sentence "If there were a 20-story building with only stairs,
then anybody who WORKED on the 18th floor would get a lot of
exercise." is modeled on "If there were a 20-story building without
elevators, then those whose office WAS on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."
Since most people in this thread regard the "WAS" as an indicative,
how could the "WORKED" be regarded as a subjunctive?
What's your criterion?
Are you looking at the right example? Semiretired's comment was
directed at "Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours
every week, he would earn more money".

The past subjunctive (I'm sticking to the terminology I'm used to) is in
the "if-clause" and is past subjunctive because it is contrary to fact,
as he said. Using a verb that makes a formal distinction, that would be
"if he were allowed to work".

The "worked" that he called indicative is
the one in the first sentence; indicative, as he says, because the
subject did work ten hours. Making the same change of verb as the one
above, it would be "Last week he was allowed to work only ten hours".

I can see that the example you preferred is more difficult: "If there
were a 20-story building without elevators, then those whose office WAS
on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."

The use of "were" in the if-clause is straightforward, but the reason
for the indicative in the other clause may need explaining. I would say
that it is indicative because the existence of an office on the
eighteenth floor is real, given the condition established by the if-clause.

If none of our explanations satisfy you, it might be better to learn the
patterns as paradigms than to search for a rule.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The context and the form of the sentence tell you which is which,
because the past and the subjunctive use an IDENTICAL WORD.
The concept should not be alien to you as in 他画画儿, the first 画 is a
verb (paints) and the second 画 is a noun (pictures).
Peter Moylan
2019-01-26 05:22:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by CDB
I can see that the example you preferred is more difficult: "If
there were a 20-story building without elevators, then those whose
office WAS on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."
The use of "were" in the if-clause is straightforward, but the
reason for the indicative in the other clause may need explaining. I
would say that it is indicative because the existence of an office on
the eighteenth floor is real, given the condition established by the
if-clause.
If none of our explanations satisfy you, it might be better to learn
the patterns as paradigms than to search for a rule.
The pattern in such cases is always the same:

IF <present subjunctive> THEN <past indicative>

*Always*. You never have a subjunctive in the THEN part. That's for English.

The only confusing part is that that pattern is different in different
languages. For example, in exactly the same construct French has

IF <imperfect indicative> THEN <conditional>

with no subjunctive in either half.

The fact that different languages have different patterns is a pretty
clear demonstration that you cannot arrive at the answer by pure logic.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Yurui Liu
2019-01-26 05:30:44 UTC
Permalink
CDB於 2019年1月26日星期六 UTC+8下午1時07分14秒寫道:
Post by CDB
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Well, (according to most people) the indicative verb "worked" is
already there, pending definitions of the subjunctive and the
indicative.
Please practise your input skills, and try to understand all that
has been written to you. Your understanding of the basics is not at
the level that you think it is.
"Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours every
week, he would earn more money"
The first "worked" is indicative, because he did. The second
"worked" is subjunctive because he does not.
The sentence "If there were a 20-story building with only stairs,
then anybody who WORKED on the 18th floor would get a lot of
exercise." is modeled on "If there were a 20-story building without
elevators, then those whose office WAS on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Since most people in this thread regard the "WAS" as an indicative,
how could the "WORKED" be regarded as a subjunctive?
What's your criterion?
Are you looking at the right example? Semiretired's comment was
directed at "Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked 40 hours
every week, he would earn more money".
Yes. He said upthread, "You left out the following part which contained
the indicative, thus indicating that the message had not been understood"
and he was referring to the example "If there were a 20 storey building
with only stairs, then anybody who worked on the 18th floor would get a
lot of exercise."

Then he offered the basic example he thought I didn't understand.








The example "Last week he worked only 10 hours. If he worked

40 hours
Post by CDB
every week, he would earn more money"
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are
as counterfactual and hypothetical as your
The past subjunctive (I'm sticking to the terminology I'm used to) is in
the "if-clause" and is past subjunctive because it is contrary to fact,
as he said. Using a verb that makes a formal distinction, that would be
"if he were allowed to work".
The "worked" that he called indicative is
the one in the first sentence; indicative, as he says, because the
subject did work ten hours. Making the same change of verb as the one
above, it would be "Last week he was allowed to work only ten hours".
I can see that the example you preferred is more difficult: "If there
were a 20-story building without elevators, then those whose office WAS
on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."
The use of "were" in the if-clause is straightforward, but the reason
for the indicative in the other clause may need explaining. I would say
that it is indicative because the existence of an office on the
eighteenth floor is real, given the condition established by the if-clause.
If none of our explanations satisfy you, it might be better to learn the
patterns as paradigms than to search for a rule.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The context and the form of the sentence tell you which is which,
because the past and the subjunctive use an IDENTICAL WORD.
The concept should not be alien to you as in 他画画儿, the first 画 is a
verb (paints) and the second 画 is a noun (pictures).
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-15 14:35:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I don't see why my sentences are flawed; they are
as counterfactual and hypothetical as your "If there
were a 20 storey building with only stairs, then anybody
who worked on the 18th floor would get a lot of exercise."
You left out the following part which contained the indicative,
thus indicating that the message had not been understood
Post by Yurui Liu
Typical cases of the the indicative are fairly easy, but
the example in the embedded-clause context of the OP is rather
different; no one had ever defined or recognized the indicative in
a way involving unreal situations. Once people claimed "was" as in "
whose office was on the 18th floor" is indicative, they would
have a hard time explaining why "was" in "If he was a billionaire,
he would buy a Cadillac" in informal British English (or other
closely related varieties) is not indicative.
It is just WRONG. Because "were" is not the appropriate form of the
past tense, it is taught as an exception, which not everybody has
taken on board. Present day learners of UK English are not taught
about the subjunctive because they are no longer compelled to learn
another language (such as French) in which it has a clear and
distinct form using words which do not already exist in the indicative.
Post by Yurui Liu
And the basic stuff you were preaching hardly addresses the issue.
You have given me no cause to believe that you have fully accepted
the idea.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The subjunctive is hard enough for native English speakers
to understand, never mind somebody who does not have this
feature in their mother tongue.
If you keep everything unreal/counterfactual within the pattern
"If I had, I would" and not stray in to the real/factual mode
for following sentences then everybody will understand you clearly.
That surely is an end to be desired.
*The answer to the question in your original post is "were"*
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
"was / were" on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
Are you saying "were" should be used instead of "was" in
the relative clause?
No. That was a slip, sorry.
I had already posted that NOBODY has an office on the
eighteenth floor because the building does not exist.
"Anyone who had an office" is what should be there.
My point is that when you start in the counterfactual you MUST remain
in the counterfactual until the end of the entire passage. It is not
good enough to use the counterfactual in the first sentence then slip
back to the factual thereafter. Such action produces a dog's breakfast.
...

Did you make that up? "Those who had offices", "people who had
offices", etc., sound at least as good to me.
--
Jerry Friedman
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-15 15:41:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
"was / were" on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
Are you saying "were" should be used instead of "was" in
the relative clause?
No. That was a slip, sorry.
I had already posted that NOBODY has an office on the
eighteenth floor because the building does not exist.
"Anyone who had an office" is what should be there.
My point is that when you start in the counterfactual you MUST remain
in the counterfactual until the end of the entire passage. It is not
good enough to use the counterfactual in the first sentence then slip
back to the factual thereafter. Such action produces a dog's breakfast.
Did you make that up? "Those who had offices", "people who had
offices", etc., sound at least as good to me.
There are too many variables in play.

"Had" is fine. It is what I used.
It reinforces the unreality of the sentence.
It is not used in the original question

The original was "those whose offices was/were"
"Those whose office was" implies that the building exists.
"Those whose office were" has singular/plural problems.

With the tenses/mood right, "people" or "those" do not give
rise to problems, but with a verb which implies that the
building DOES exist they tend to reinforce the "reality"

"Anybody" emphasises that the building's existence is
only speculative.

This particular verb is potentially redundant.
"Anybody with an office" would work just as well"
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-15 21:35:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
"was / were" on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
Are you saying "were" should be used instead of "was" in
the relative clause?
No. That was a slip, sorry.
I had already posted that NOBODY has an office on the
eighteenth floor because the building does not exist.
"Anyone who had an office" is what should be there.
My point is that when you start in the counterfactual you MUST remain
in the counterfactual until the end of the entire passage. It is not
good enough to use the counterfactual in the first sentence then slip
back to the factual thereafter. Such action produces a dog's breakfast.
Did you make that up? "Those who had offices", "people who had
offices", etc., sound at least as good to me.
There are too many variables in play.
"Had" is fine. It is what I used.
It reinforces the unreality of the sentence.
It is not used in the original question
The original was "those whose offices was/were"
"Those whose office was" implies that the building exists.
"Those whose office were" has singular/plural problems.
With the tenses/mood right, "people" or "those" do not give
rise to problems, but with a verb which implies that the
building DOES exist they tend to reinforce the "reality"
"Anybody" emphasises that the building's existence is
only speculative.
Thanks. I thought you were saying that using "those" or "people"
was wrong.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
This particular verb is potentially redundant.
"Anybody with an office" would work just as well"
True.
--
Jerry Friedman
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-05 04:23:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?


Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance

Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?

I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.

Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.

Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
That makes the form "was" indicative even when it's used in a
hypothesis ("If he was there, he must have seen what happened.")
--
Jerry Friedman
Yurui Liu
2019-01-05 05:38:00 UTC
Permalink
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月5日星期六 UTC+8下午12時23分57秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?

Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance
Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?
I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.
Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
Well, "was" *can* be a form of a verb used to denote facts.
It just doesn't have to be, as my examples in this thread
have shown.

And I am not sure why "were" with a first- or third-person isn't normaaly
used to denote facts in standard modern English. Isn't it common
to say "They were here yesterday"?

Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
Post by Jerry Friedman
That makes the form "was" indicative even when it's used in a
hypothesis ("If he was there, he must have seen what happened.")
I suspect that example sentence in parentheses does not denote
a counterfactual hypothesis, but rather an uncertain possibility,
i.e., that said person could indeed have been there at some time
in the past, and the speaker just isn't quite sure. But we are
here concerned with counterfactual hypotheses.
Post by Jerry Friedman
--
Jerry Friedman
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-05 16:02:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月5日星期六 UTC+8下午12時23分57秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?

Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance
Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?
I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.

I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See below
for definitions of "subjunctive".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.
Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
Well, "was" *can* be a form of a verb used to denote facts.
It just doesn't have to be, as my examples in this thread
have shown.
True.
Post by Yurui Liu
And I am not sure why "were" with a first- or third-person isn't normaaly
used to denote facts in standard modern English. Isn't it common
to say "They were here yesterday"?
Sorry, I omitted the word "singular".
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?

Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
collaborators used in /The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language/:

https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/

It strikes me as entirely feasible.

The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.

I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.

When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.

In particular, I think calling your "was" (in the building example)
subjunctive and calling it indicative are both feasible.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
That makes the form "was" indicative even when it's used in a
hypothesis ("If he was there, he must have seen what happened.")
I suspect that example sentence in parentheses does not denote
a counterfactual hypothesis, but rather an uncertain possibility,
i.e., that said person could indeed have been there at some time
in the past, and the speaker just isn't quite sure.
Quite right. It's in a hypothesis but not a counterfactual one.
Post by Yurui Liu
But we are
here concerned with counterfactual hypotheses.
You brought up the overall definitions of "indicative" and "subjunctive",
which would have to address all situations.
--
Jerry Friedman
Peter Moylan
2019-01-06 00:02:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.
I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See
below for definitions of "subjunctive".
I seem to recall reading, in a very old textbook, that English verbs
have at least four moods: indicative, imperative, subjunctive,
conditional. (I say "at least" because there might have been others that
I've forgotten.) What makes that theory shaky is that there is little or
no syntactic difference between the moods. I think a (weak) case can
still be made for subjunctive and imperative moods, but any hypothetical
conditional mood has by now been completely replaced by the use of
auxiliaries (usually "would" or "should"). In BrE constructs the use of
auxiliaries largely replaced the subjunctive mood as well, but I have
the impression that the BrE subjunctive is making a comeback, under the
influence of those English dialects that maintained the distinction.
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
collaborators used in /The Cambridge Grammar of the English
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
I like the notion in that article of a "covert subjunctive": one that
has the same form as an indicative, but it still _feels_ as if it has to
be a subjunctive, which matches my feeling that subjunctive is more of a
_mood_ than a grammatical form. An example is

"It is vital that you come to the meeting tomorrow."

In form this could be indicative, but to me the beginning "It is vital"
clearly makes it a subjunctive sentence. As further evidence, if you
change from second to third person the verb remains "come" rather than
"comes".
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-07 05:36:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.
I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See
below for definitions of "subjunctive".
I seem to recall reading, in a very old textbook, that English verbs
have at least four moods: indicative, imperative, subjunctive,
conditional.
That's because they thought English was badly spelt Latin. Pay no attention.
Post by Peter Moylan
(I say "at least" because there might have been others that
I've forgotten.) What makes that theory shaky is that there is little or
no syntactic difference between the moods. I think a (weak) case can
still be made for subjunctive and imperative moods, but any hypothetical
conditional mood has by now been completely replaced by the use of
auxiliaries (usually "would" or "should"). In BrE constructs the use of
auxiliaries largely replaced the subjunctive mood as well, but I have
the impression that the BrE subjunctive is making a comeback, under the
influence of those English dialects that maintained the distinction.
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
collaborators used in /The Cambridge Grammar of the English
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
I like the notion in that article of a "covert subjunctive": one that
has the same form as an indicative, but it still _feels_ as if it has to
be a subjunctive, which matches my feeling that subjunctive is more of a
_mood_ than a grammatical form. An example is
"It is vital that you come to the meeting tomorrow."
In form this could be indicative, but to me the beginning "It is vital"
clearly makes it a subjunctive sentence. As further evidence, if you
change from second to third person the verb remains "come" rather than
"comes".
And he complains about Strunk & White??
Yurui Liu
2019-01-06 06:18:29 UTC
Permalink
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月5日星期六 UTC+8下午12時23分57秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?

Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance
Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?
I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.
I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See below
for definitions of "subjunctive".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.
Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
Well, "was" *can* be a form of a verb used to denote facts.
It just doesn't have to be, as my examples in this thread
have shown.
True.
Post by Yurui Liu
And I am not sure why "were" with a first- or third-person isn't normaaly
used to denote facts in standard modern English. Isn't it common
to say "They were here yesterday"?
Sorry, I omitted the word "singular".
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."

But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.
Post by Jerry Friedman
In particular, I think calling your "was" (in the building example)
subjunctive and calling it indicative are both feasible.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
That makes the form "was" indicative even when it's used in a
hypothesis ("If he was there, he must have seen what happened.")
I suspect that example sentence in parentheses does not denote
a counterfactual hypothesis, but rather an uncertain possibility,
i.e., that said person could indeed have been there at some time
in the past, and the speaker just isn't quite sure.
Quite right. It's in a hypothesis but not a counterfactual one.
Post by Yurui Liu
But we are
here concerned with counterfactual hypotheses.
You brought up the overall definitions of "indicative" and "subjunctive",
which would have to address all situations.
The "was" in "If he was there, he must have seen what happened" is
an incontrovertibly indicative past-tense form. As evidence we could
use "is" if we are uncertain whether that said person *is* there at
the time of speech.(Of course, the mood of the main clause might need
to be changed accordingly.)

Anyway, on second thought, for speakers of informal *British English*
at least, maybe the backshifting (or projection) account could work, except that the definition should be broadened to cover non-tense-related cases
where a subjunctive, e.g. 'was" (as in "If John *was* here now,
he'd help me") sets up a hypothetical world that requires all
subsequent forms with non-factual meaning to be in the
subjunctive. It seems the past subjunctive "were" is an oddball,
disrupting an otherwise uniform pattern of backshifting
(or projection) in other English varieties.
Post by Jerry Friedman
--
Jerry Friedman
b***@aol.com
2019-01-06 18:07:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月5日星期六 UTC+8下午12時23分57秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?

Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance
Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?
I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.
I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See below
for definitions of "subjunctive".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.
Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
Well, "was" *can* be a form of a verb used to denote facts.
It just doesn't have to be, as my examples in this thread
have shown.
True.
Post by Yurui Liu
And I am not sure why "were" with a first- or third-person isn't normaaly
used to denote facts in standard modern English. Isn't it common
to say "They were here yesterday"?
Sorry, I omitted the word "singular".
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.
It can. Change your sentence to:

"If there were no elevator in this 20-story office building, those
whose office _is_ on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."

Here, the counterfactual (irrealis) if-clause is matched with a main
clause describing a real situation (the building and the office on the
18th floor exist), and "is" is justified.

As I see it, in your initial sentence, the association of "was" and
"would" only follows the regular English sequence of tenses of
"would + past tense", except that it doesn't apply to a description
of time but of reality vs unreality.

Considering, for instance, the sentence "He said he would call when he arrived", the past form "arrived" actually accounts for a situation in
the future and, with the English sequence of tenses, should logically be
"would arrive", as in e.g. "He said he would arrive at 5pm.")

Likewise, your sentence should be "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office _would be_ on the
18th floor would climb many steps each day", but, following the same
tense logic used to describe time, "would be" is replaced by "was" to
indicate unreality.

Therefore, it can be said that "was" in your sentence is no more a
subjunctive than "arrived" is a future or a conditional in "He said
he would call when he arrived".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
In particular, I think calling your "was" (in the building example)
subjunctive and calling it indicative are both feasible.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
That makes the form "was" indicative even when it's used in a
hypothesis ("If he was there, he must have seen what happened.")
I suspect that example sentence in parentheses does not denote
a counterfactual hypothesis, but rather an uncertain possibility,
i.e., that said person could indeed have been there at some time
in the past, and the speaker just isn't quite sure.
Quite right. It's in a hypothesis but not a counterfactual one.
Post by Yurui Liu
But we are
here concerned with counterfactual hypotheses.
You brought up the overall definitions of "indicative" and "subjunctive",
which would have to address all situations.
The "was" in "If he was there, he must have seen what happened" is
an incontrovertibly indicative past-tense form. As evidence we could
use "is" if we are uncertain whether that said person *is* there at
the time of speech.(Of course, the mood of the main clause might need
to be changed accordingly.)
Anyway, on second thought, for speakers of informal *British English*
at least, maybe the backshifting (or projection) account could work, except that the definition should be broadened to cover non-tense-related cases
where a subjunctive, e.g. 'was" (as in "If John *was* here now,
he'd help me") sets up a hypothetical world that requires all
subsequent forms with non-factual meaning to be in the
subjunctive. It seems the past subjunctive "were" is an oddball,
disrupting an otherwise uniform pattern of backshifting
(or projection) in other English varieties.
Post by Jerry Friedman
--
Jerry Friedman
Yurui Liu
2019-01-06 22:22:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月5日星期六 UTC+8下午12時23分57秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?

Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance
Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?
I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.
I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See below
for definitions of "subjunctive".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.
Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
Well, "was" *can* be a form of a verb used to denote facts.
It just doesn't have to be, as my examples in this thread
have shown.
True.
Post by Yurui Liu
And I am not sure why "were" with a first- or third-person isn't normaaly
used to denote facts in standard modern English. Isn't it common
to say "They were here yesterday"?
Sorry, I omitted the word "singular".
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.
"If there were no elevator in this 20-story office building, those
whose office _is_ on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."
Here, the counterfactual (irrealis) if-clause is matched with a main
clause describing a real situation (the building and the office on the
18th floor exist), and "is" is justified.
I'd say that's probably because "this 20-story office building"
is factual, not counterfactual.
Post by b***@aol.com
As I see it, in your initial sentence, the association of "was" and
"would" only follows the regular English sequence of tenses of
"would + past tense", except that it doesn't apply to a description
of time but of reality vs unreality.
Yes, a sequence of unreality. That's just another way of saying
"projection / backshifting" into a counterfactual hypothetical
world.
Post by b***@aol.com
Considering, for instance, the sentence "He said he would call when he arrived", the past form "arrived" actually accounts for a situation in
the future and, with the English sequence of tenses, should logically be
"would arrive", as in e.g. "He said he would arrive at 5pm.")
Likewise, your sentence should be "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office _would be_ on the
18th floor would climb many steps each day", but, following the same
tense logic used to describe time, "would be" is replaced by "was" to
indicate unreality.
Yes, I did say "maybe the backshifting (or projection) account could
work, except that the definition should be _broadened_ to cover
non-tense-related cases."

But I am not sure if "would be on the 18th floor" works in your example.
Post by b***@aol.com
Therefore, it can be said that "was" in your sentence is no more a
subjunctive than "arrived" is a future or a conditional in "He said
he would call when he arrived".
Except that "was" is there to express counterfactuality.
And "arrived" in your example indeed could be some sort of
"conditional" if "arrives" as in "He says he will call when he arrives"
is also conditional.
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
In particular, I think calling your "was" (in the building example)
subjunctive and calling it indicative are both feasible.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
That makes the form "was" indicative even when it's used in a
hypothesis ("If he was there, he must have seen what happened.")
I suspect that example sentence in parentheses does not denote
a counterfactual hypothesis, but rather an uncertain possibility,
i.e., that said person could indeed have been there at some time
in the past, and the speaker just isn't quite sure.
Quite right. It's in a hypothesis but not a counterfactual one.
Post by Yurui Liu
But we are
here concerned with counterfactual hypotheses.
You brought up the overall definitions of "indicative" and "subjunctive",
which would have to address all situations.
The "was" in "If he was there, he must have seen what happened" is
an incontrovertibly indicative past-tense form. As evidence we could
use "is" if we are uncertain whether that said person *is* there at
the time of speech.(Of course, the mood of the main clause might need
to be changed accordingly.)
Anyway, on second thought, for speakers of informal *British English*
at least, maybe the backshifting (or projection) account could work, except that the definition should be broadened to cover non-tense-related cases
where a subjunctive, e.g. 'was" (as in "If John *was* here now,
he'd help me") sets up a hypothetical world that requires all
subsequent forms with non-factual meaning to be in the
subjunctive. It seems the past subjunctive "were" is an oddball,
disrupting an otherwise uniform pattern of backshifting
(or projection) in other English varieties.
Post by Jerry Friedman
--
Jerry Friedman
b***@aol.com
2019-01-06 23:49:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月5日星期六 UTC+8下午12時23分57秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?

Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance
Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?
I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.
I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See below
for definitions of "subjunctive".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.
Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
Well, "was" *can* be a form of a verb used to denote facts.
It just doesn't have to be, as my examples in this thread
have shown.
True.
Post by Yurui Liu
And I am not sure why "were" with a first- or third-person isn't normaaly
used to denote facts in standard modern English. Isn't it common
to say "They were here yesterday"?
Sorry, I omitted the word "singular".
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.
"If there were no elevator in this 20-story office building, those
whose office _is_ on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day."
Here, the counterfactual (irrealis) if-clause is matched with a main
clause describing a real situation (the building and the office on the
18th floor exist), and "is" is justified.
I'd say that's probably because "this 20-story office building"
is factual, not counterfactual.
Post by b***@aol.com
As I see it, in your initial sentence, the association of "was" and
"would" only follows the regular English sequence of tenses of
"would + past tense", except that it doesn't apply to a description
of time but of reality vs unreality.
Yes, a sequence of unreality. That's just another way of saying
"projection / backshifting" into a counterfactual hypothetical
world.
Post by b***@aol.com
Considering, for instance, the sentence "He said he would call when he arrived", the past form "arrived" actually accounts for a situation in
the future and, with the English sequence of tenses, should logically be
"would arrive", as in e.g. "He said he would arrive at 5pm.")
Likewise, your sentence should be "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office _would be_ on the
18th floor would climb many steps each day", but, following the same
tense logic used to describe time, "would be" is replaced by "was" to
indicate unreality.
Yes, I did say "maybe the backshifting (or projection) account could
work, except that the definition should be _broadened_ to cover
non-tense-related cases."
Sorry, I must have missed that post.
Post by Yurui Liu
But I am not sure if "would be on the 18th floor" works in your example.
I think it does.

It may be ungrammatical in English (I'm not really sure about that, BTW),
but "would be on the 18th floor" is subjected to the same condition as
"would climb many steps each day", i.e. "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator", and as such could conceivably also be in
the conditional. In French, for instance, the conditional would be used
for both.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by b***@aol.com
Therefore, it can be said that "was" in your sentence is no more a
subjunctive than "arrived" is a future or a conditional in "He saidex
he would call when he arrived".
Except that "was" is there to express counterfactuality.
And "arrived" in your example indeed could be some sort of
"conditional" if "arrives" as in "He says he will call when he arrives"
is also conditional.
You're right in that his calling is contingent on "his" arriving, but in
the speaker's mind, "when he arrives" expresses more of a certainty than
a mere hypothesis, unlike "He says he will call if he arrives".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by b***@aol.com
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
In particular, I think calling your "was" (in the building example)
subjunctive and calling it indicative are both feasible.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
That makes the form "was" indicative even when it's used in a
hypothesis ("If he was there, he must have seen what happened.")
I suspect that example sentence in parentheses does not denote
a counterfactual hypothesis, but rather an uncertain possibility,
i.e., that said person could indeed have been there at some time
in the past, and the speaker just isn't quite sure.
Quite right. It's in a hypothesis but not a counterfactual one.
Post by Yurui Liu
But we are
here concerned with counterfactual hypotheses.
You brought up the overall definitions of "indicative" and "subjunctive",
which would have to address all situations.
The "was" in "If he was there, he must have seen what happened" is
an incontrovertibly indicative past-tense form. As evidence we could
use "is" if we are uncertain whether that said person *is* there at
the time of speech.(Of course, the mood of the main clause might need
to be changed accordingly.)
Anyway, on second thought, for speakers of informal *British English*
at least, maybe the backshifting (or projection) account could work, except that the definition should be broadened to cover non-tense-related cases
where a subjunctive, e.g. 'was" (as in "If John *was* here now,
he'd help me") sets up a hypothetical world that requires all
subsequent forms with non-factual meaning to be in the
subjunctive. It seems the past subjunctive "were" is an oddball,
disrupting an otherwise uniform pattern of backshifting
(or projection) in other English varieties.
Post by Jerry Friedman
--
Jerry Friedman
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-06 19:50:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月5日星期六 UTC+8下午12時23分57秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?

Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance
Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?
I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.
I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See below
for definitions of "subjunctive".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.
Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
Well, "was" *can* be a form of a verb used to denote facts.
It just doesn't have to be, as my examples in this thread
have shown.
True.
Post by Yurui Liu
And I am not sure why "were" with a first- or third-person isn't normaaly
used to denote facts in standard modern English. Isn't it common
to say "They were here yesterday"?
Sorry, I omitted the word "singular".
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Pullum is saying that "If I were" should not be called subjunctive.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.


And only if counterfactuality is their sole criterion.

How do you feel about these?

"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."

"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"

To state two things I've been implying, I think what's important is
to know what verb form to use, not what to call it, and I think there's
no prospect of agreement on what to call the forms we've been
talking about.
--
Jerry Friedman
Yurui Liu
2019-01-07 13:36:19 UTC
Permalink
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月5日星期六 UTC+8下午12時23分57秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
Thank you for your efforts, but I'm well familiar with the basics.
My question is whether to treat "was" in the examples concerned as
indicative or subjunctive. I know in standard American English at least,
"were" is the commonest subjunctive form regardless of person, but
in other English varieties that is not necessarily true.
Since "was" in my examples is used to describe hypothetical situations,
I find it hard to treat it as an indicative. In fact, the Oxford
(A verbal form or mood or a sentence containing a verbal form) that
denotes fact; contrasted with IMPERATIVE and SUBJUNCTIVE.
If "was" in my examples denotes hypotheticality, isn't it stretching
the facts to claim it is indicative?

Not to speak for semiretired, but I'd say that definition is short
and gives one an idea, but is not intended to be exhaustive. For
instance
Is there anyone in a.u.e. who *knows* what mood the verb is in?
I find it hard to see an argument that that "knows" denotes fact.
Indeed, in French and Spanish, if I'm not mistaken, the corresponding
verb would be subjunctive because of its position in a question.
Yet few grammarians of English would call that "knows" subjunctive.
Great point. What is the feasible definition of the English
indicative then?
You seem to assume there's only one.
I'll go for "the finite verb form that isn't subjunctive". See below
for definitions of "subjunctive".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise "Long live the king," "O king, live long," and "I hope the
king lives a long time," the living has the same relation to fact in
all three moods, as far as I can tell.
Note also the use of "verbal form" in the definition. "Was" is a
/form/ of the verb used to denote facts, so that form is
indicative, whereas "were" with a first- or third-person subject
isn't normally used to denote facts in standard modern English.
Well, "was" *can* be a form of a verb used to denote facts.
It just doesn't have to be, as my examples in this thread
have shown.
True.
Post by Yurui Liu
And I am not sure why "were" with a first- or third-person isn't normaaly
used to denote facts in standard modern English. Isn't it common
to say "They were here yesterday"?
Sorry, I omitted the word "singular".
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Pullum is saying that "If I were" should not be called subjunctive.
Where in the article is he saying that?
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.

And only if counterfactuality is their sole criterion.
How do you feel about these?
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
The sentence seems to commit the speaker to its truth.
That is, the speaker doesn't seem to regard it counterfactual.
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.
Post by Jerry Friedman
To state two things I've been implying, I think what's important is
to know what verb form to use, not what to call it, and I think there's
no prospect of agreement on what to call the forms we've been
talking about.
--
Jerry Friedman
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-07 16:12:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:

Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Pullum is saying that "If I were" should not be called subjunctive.
Where in the article is he saying that?
"Now I'm ready to define English subjunctive clauses. They are *finite
yet tenseless* clauses with their verb in the *plain form*." (Emphasis
in original.)

As he says earlier, the plain form of "be" is "be", not "were".
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.

And only if counterfactuality is their sole criterion.
How do you feel about these?
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
The sentence seems to commit the speaker to its truth.
That is, the speaker doesn't seem to regard it counterfactual.
Irving doesn't regard it as counterfactual, but the speaker may.
Let's assume the speaker does.

I've been looking for a chance to quote this, where SJV means
subjunctive:

"An interesting case from Old English is: Nu cwædon gedwolmen þæt deofol
gesceope sume gesceafta ac hi leogað 'now said heretics that Devil
created.SJV some creatures but they lie’ (Ælfric /Homilies/ I.16.19,
quoted in Traugott 1972: 100)"

https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/data/UQ_12793/Allan-K-ALS2006_Revised_070211.pdf?Expires=1546890558&Signature=bhslJ77zdO3TeXjYj4951EAr~hmABAhXkEy3AxncVbj25C-bBpYn4Oi6wOErB1daBPDrkxzY3oMpOGkhifeQlsnaD47WhkhFndRLctgP7EmVR5LMGub7UZmvSbD5Oatoh5gt1mi7w364AfO1Vu3IOxdDK0Kc1WgZt9bxLPlANdnJImLS4~Nsts0vSKzHGwiXSQXdfnKE8xJjmW53539mj5VXAXkh4E4m48cRzzQLgUxFAM8legoIcC738GzY1pW94zJ1kSDctTAiWYkWmy4Rq55qsy4dccjU8~PPPkbM7fN5--6rUZ5QYspeCJGZSDNyl7Xc5-aMezR75E55a9GcvA__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJKNBJ4MJBJNC6NLQ

https://tinyurl.com/yd8errqe

That verb meaning "created" was subjunctive because it was part of
what the speaker considered a lie.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.


It's normal for a person who knows the Earth is round. (Of course
the argument might be less facetious.)
--
Jerry Friedman
Yurui Liu
2019-01-09 15:03:50 UTC
Permalink
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月8日星期二 UTC+8上午12時12分11秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:

Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Pullum is saying that "If I were" should not be called subjunctive.
Where in the article is he saying that?
"Now I'm ready to define English subjunctive clauses. They are *finite
yet tenseless* clauses with their verb in the *plain form*." (Emphasis
in original.)
As he says earlier, the plain form of "be" is "be", not "were".
He is referring to what most people call the present subjunctive.
In fact, he mentions the were-subjunctive as irrealis in the endnote.
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.

And only if counterfactuality is their sole criterion.
How do you feel about these?
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
The sentence seems to commit the speaker to its truth.
That is, the speaker doesn't seem to regard it counterfactual.
Irving doesn't regard it as counterfactual, but the speaker may.
Let's assume the speaker does.
I've been looking for a chance to quote this, where SJV means
"An interesting case from Old English is: Nu cwædon gedwolmen þæt deofol
gesceope sume gesceafta ac hi leogað 'now said heretics that Devil
created.SJV some creatures but they lie’ (Ælfric /Homilies/ I.16.19,
quoted in Traugott 1972: 100)"
https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/data/UQ_12793/Allan-K-ALS2006_Revised_070211.pdf?Expires=1546890558&Signature=bhslJ77zdO3TeXjYj4951EAr~hmABAhXkEy3AxncVbj25C-bBpYn4Oi6wOErB1daBPDrkxzY3oMpOGkhifeQlsnaD47WhkhFndRLctgP7EmVR5LMGub7UZmvSbD5Oatoh5gt1mi7w364AfO1Vu3IOxdDK0Kc1WgZt9bxLPlANdnJImLS4~Nsts0vSKzHGwiXSQXdfnKE8xJjmW53539mj5VXAXkh4E4m48cRzzQLgUxFAM8legoIcC738GzY1pW94zJ1kSDctTAiWYkWmy4Rq55qsy4dccjU8~PPPkbM7fN5--6rUZ5QYspeCJGZSDNyl7Xc5-aMezR75E55a9GcvA__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJKNBJ4MJBJNC6NLQ
https://tinyurl.com/yd8errqe
That verb meaning "created" was subjunctive because it was part of
what the speaker considered a lie.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.

It's normal for a person who knows the Earth is round. (Of course
the argument might be less facetious.
How does that example differ from "If the Earth *were* flat, why wouldn't
cats push everything off the edge?"
Post by Jerry Friedman
--
Jerry Friedman
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-09 15:51:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月8日星期二 UTC+8上午12時12分11秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:

Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Pullum is saying that "If I were" should not be called subjunctive.
Where in the article is he saying that?
"Now I'm ready to define English subjunctive clauses. They are *finite
yet tenseless* clauses with their verb in the *plain form*." (Emphasis
in original.)
As he says earlier, the plain form of "be" is "be", not "were".
He is referring to what most people call the present subjunctive.
And he's saying it's the only subjunctive. He doesn't allow for any
other kind.
Post by Yurui Liu
In fact, he mentions the were-subjunctive as irrealis in the endnote.
"Many discussions of English grammar refer to the /were/ of /If
only there were something we could do/ as a subjunctive, often as
the 'past subjunctive'; but it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause."

He's saying the irrealis clause is totally different from subjunctives.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.

And only if counterfactuality is their sole criterion.
How do you feel about these?
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."


(Maybe you know, or maybe it will amuse you to know, that one of
Irving's nicknames among Chinese basketball fans is 平曼巴 'Flat
Mamba'.)
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.

It's normal for a person who knows the Earth is round. (Of course
the argument might be less facetious.
How does that example differ from "If the Earth *were* flat, why wouldn't
cats push everything off the edge?"
In that situation, not at all, I'd say.

In another situation, it might allow a possibility that the hypothesis
is true. "If the motive was robbery, why didn't the murderer take
the victim's watch?" The speaker may be allowing for the possibility
that the motive was robbery and want to hear an explanation for this
troublesome point.
--
Jerry Friedman
Yurui Liu
2019-01-09 16:08:40 UTC
Permalink
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月9日星期三 UTC+8下午11時51分35秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月8日星期二 UTC+8上午12時12分11秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:

Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Pullum is saying that "If I were" should not be called subjunctive.
Where in the article is he saying that?
"Now I'm ready to define English subjunctive clauses. They are *finite
yet tenseless* clauses with their verb in the *plain form*." (Emphasis
in original.)
As he says earlier, the plain form of "be" is "be", not "were".
He is referring to what most people call the present subjunctive.
And he's saying it's the only subjunctive. He doesn't allow for any
other kind.
Post by Yurui Liu
In fact, he mentions the were-subjunctive as irrealis in the endnote.
"Many discussions of English grammar refer to the /were/ of /If
only there were something we could do/ as a subjunctive, often as
the 'past subjunctive'; but it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause."
He's saying the irrealis clause is totally different from subjunctives.
Did he say what the difference is? But then again, even if there
are differences between the present subjunctive and the past
subjunctive, that wouldn't be too surprising.
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not, of course, comparing myself as an authority to one of the
editors of the most recent comprehensive grammar of English.
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.

And only if counterfactuality is their sole criterion.
How do you feel about these?
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."

(Maybe you know, or maybe it will amuse you to know, that one of
Irving's nicknames among Chinese basketball fans is 平曼巴 'Flat
Mamba'.)
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.

It's normal for a person who knows the Earth is round. (Of course
the argument might be less facetious.
How does that example differ from "If the Earth *were* flat, why wouldn't
cats push everything off the edge?"
In that situation, not at all, I'd say.
Maybe it conveys a more impartial tone than the were-version?
Post by Jerry Friedman
In another situation, it might allow a possibility that the hypothesis
is true. "If the motive was robbery, why didn't the murderer take
the victim's watch?" The speaker may be allowing for the possibility
that the motive was robbery and want to hear an explanation for this
troublesome point.
--
Jerry Friedman
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-10 15:58:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月9日星期三 UTC+8下午11時51分35秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月8日星期二 UTC+8上午12時12分11秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月6日星期日 UTC+8上午12時02分36秒寫道:

Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Again, a feasible definition of the English subjunctive is needed.
How many would you like?
Here's Geoffrey Pullum's definition, which is what he and his
https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2016/03/29/being-a-subjunctive/
It strikes me as entirely feasible.
The definition that I offered you in a previous comment was similar
but added what Pullum calls "irrealis": "If I *were*" and such. I
think that one's feasible too, since it defines "subjunctive" based
on purely syntactic properties.
I don't see any definition of the past subjunctive offered in the
article other than "it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause.... It occurs in certain clauses describing
situations not claimed to hold in this world. It doesn't talk about
the past at all."
But that bit of information is nothing new or insightful.
If anything, it seems to reinforce the idea that "was" in my
examples could be regarded as a subjunctive.
Pullum is saying that "If I were" should not be called subjunctive.
Where in the article is he saying that?
"Now I'm ready to define English subjunctive clauses. They are *finite
yet tenseless* clauses with their verb in the *plain form*." (Emphasis
in original.)
As he says earlier, the plain form of "be" is "be", not "were".
He is referring to what most people call the present subjunctive.
And he's saying it's the only subjunctive. He doesn't allow for any
other kind.
Post by Yurui Liu
In fact, he mentions the were-subjunctive as irrealis in the endnote.
"Many discussions of English grammar refer to the /were/ of /If
only there were something we could do/ as a subjunctive, often as
the 'past subjunctive'; but it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause."
He's saying the irrealis clause is totally different from subjunctives.
Did he say what the difference is?
Yes, as you can see at the article. I don't see that the differences
amount to a proof that irrealis clauses shouldn't be called subjunctive.
Maybe there's more on the subject in the CGEL.
Post by Yurui Liu
But then again, even if there
are differences between the present subjunctive and the past
subjunctive, that wouldn't be too surprising.
If you're arguing for your (or your preferred authorities') terminology
against Pullum's, I'm not participating.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
When you suggested that the "was" in "If there were a 20-story office
building without an elevator, those whose office *was* on the 18th
floor would climb many steps each day" was subjunctive, you were, I
believe, using a definition at least partly based on semantic
properties. I believe such definitions are feasible too. However,
if you're going to let "is" and "was" be subjunctive, I think you're
going to find some arbitrariness in your definition; you're going
to find that other grammarians using your approach have different
but still feasible definitions.
Only if "is" could be used to describe counterfactual situations.

And only if counterfactuality is their sole criterion.
How do you feel about these?
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
...
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.

It's normal for a person who knows the Earth is round. (Of course
the argument might be less facetious.
How does that example differ from "If the Earth *were* flat, why wouldn't
cats push everything off the edge?"
In that situation, not at all, I'd say.
Maybe it conveys a more impartial tone than the were-version?
...

Fake-impartial at best, in that example.
--
Jerry Friedman
Peter Moylan
2019-01-11 05:34:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月9日星期三 UTC+8下午11時51分35秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"Many discussions of English grammar refer to the /were/ of /If
only there were something we could do/ as a subjunctive, often
as the 'past subjunctive'; but it's a totally different
construction, the irrealis clause."
He's saying the irrealis clause is totally different from
subjunctives.
Did he say what the difference is?
Yes, as you can see at the article. I don't see that the
differences amount to a proof that irrealis clauses shouldn't be
called subjunctive. Maybe there's more on the subject in the CGEL.
Since it's a matter of terminology, or perhaps classification, it's not
amenable to proof or disproof. The standard I would apply is "Does
separating irrealis from subjunctive lead to a more elegant description
of these grammatical points?" I'm not sufficiently expert to answer
that, but I must say that his way of looking at it appeals to me.

The terms "present subjunctive" and "past subjunctive" always looked
like a kludge to me, because they're not about present and past tense.
In contrast, the French "imperfect subjunctive" really can be viewed as
the past tense of the normal subjunctive. An argument that works in
French, but not in English. I'd call it an attempt to describe English
grammar by Latin rules.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-11 11:11:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
The terms "present subjunctive" and "past subjunctive" always looked
like a kludge to me, because they're not about present and past tense.
In contrast, the French "imperfect subjunctive" really can be viewed as
the past tense of the normal subjunctive. An argument that works in
French, but not in English. I'd call it an attempt to describe English
grammar by Latin rules.
Other language tenses give you the time of the action.
In English the words past present and future do not tell you
the time of the action, they tell you the reference point
from which you are looking.

Thus present perfect - what has happened in the past up to now.
Past perfect - something that happened before the time in the past you
are talking about.
Future perfect - what will have happened up to the time in the past
you are talking about.

The future perfect can include things which have happened in the past.

In 2492 Europeans will have known of America for a thousand years.
Peter Moylan
2019-01-10 02:24:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
[Pullum] is referring to what most people call the present
subjunctive.
And he's saying it's the only subjunctive. He doesn't allow for any
other kind.
In fact, he mentions the were-subjunctive as irrealis in the
endnote.
"Many discussions of English grammar refer to the /were/ of /If only
there were something we could do/ as a subjunctive, often as the
'past subjunctive'; but it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause."
He's saying the irrealis clause is totally different from
subjunctives.
That's a viewpoint that I haven't met before, but it makes a lot of sense.

The French equivalent of this irrealis "were" is "était", which is
unambiguously an *indicative* with the meaning "was". French does have a
subjunctive mood, which is probably used more than in English, but it
can't be used for conditions of the "if it were" kind. I don't know what
happens in the other Romance languages, or in Latin.

I gather that German does use a subjunctive in such cases, but this
appears to be a situation where English has wandered away from its
Germanic roots.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
b***@aol.com
2019-01-10 06:01:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Jerry Friedman
[Pullum] is referring to what most people call the present
subjunctive.
And he's saying it's the only subjunctive. He doesn't allow for any
other kind.
In fact, he mentions the were-subjunctive as irrealis in the endnote.
"Many discussions of English grammar refer to the /were/ of /If only
there were something we could do/ as a subjunctive, often as the
'past subjunctive'; but it's a totally different construction, the
irrealis clause."
He's saying the irrealis clause is totally different from
subjunctives.
That's a viewpoint that I haven't met before, but it makes a lot of sense.
The French equivalent of this irrealis "were" is "était", which is
unambiguously an *indicative* with the meaning "was". French does have a
subjunctive mood, which is probably used more than in English, but it
can't be used for conditions of the "if it were" kind.
The imperfect subjunctive can still be used instead of the imperfect
indicative (e.g. "comme s'il fût" vs "comme s'il était"), but it's very
uncommon and regarded as obsolete and/or literary.
Post by Peter Moylan
I don't know what
happens in the other Romance languages, or in Latin.
Latin uses the imperfect subjunctive for both the irrealis if-clause and
the main clause in a sentence, whereas Spanish, Portuguese and Italian,
for instance, use the imperfect subjunctive for the irrealis if-clause
only and the conditional for the main clause.
Post by Peter Moylan
I gather that German does use a subjunctive in such cases, but this
appears to be a situation where English has wandered away from its
Germanic roots.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Peter Moylan
2019-01-10 02:29:01 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月8日星期二 UTC+8上午12時12分11秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off
the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.

It's normal for a person who knows the Earth is round. (Of course
the argument might be less facetious.
Precisely. I think of this as an example of reductio ad adsurdum. The
speaker is clearly arguing against someone who says that the earth is flat.
Post by Yurui Liu
How does that example differ from "If the Earth *were* flat, why
wouldn't cats push everything off the edge?"
That's rather different, in my opinion. The first sentence is a comment
about the shape of the earth. The second is about the behaviour of cats.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Yurui Liu
2019-01-12 10:56:22 UTC
Permalink
Peter Moylan於 2019年1月10日星期四 UTC+8上午10時29分06秒寫道:
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月8日星期二 UTC+8上午12時12分11秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.

It's normal for a person who knows the Earth is round. (Of course
the argument might be less facetious.
Precisely. I think of this as an example of reductio ad adsurdum. The
speaker is clearly arguing against someone who says that the earth is flat.
Post by Yurui Liu
How does that example differ from "If the Earth *were* flat, why
wouldn't cats push everything off the edge?"
That's rather different, in my opinion. The first sentence is a comment
about the shape of the earth. The second is about the behaviour of cats.
I don't see what you are talking about. I am asking about the
difference between If the Earth is flat, why don't cats push
everything off the edge" and "If the Earth were flat, why wouldn't
cats push everything off the edge"?
Post by Peter Moylan
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Peter Moylan
2019-01-08 04:41:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
The sentence seems to commit the speaker to its truth. That is, the
speaker doesn't seem to regard it counterfactual.
Not, it commits Kyrie Irving to that belief. The person reporting it is
not (in this sentence, anyway) expressing an opinion.

Jerry came up with an example of the form "heretics said <clause
containing subjunctive>, but they lie". But that was Old English, and
the language has changed since then. In modern English we would not use
a subjunctive in that example.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.
Unlikely. It sounds like someone who is arguing against the proposition
that the earth is flat.

The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions about
the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't. It's misleading. You can have
counterfactual statements that don't use a subjunctive, and you can have
a subjunctive in examples where there is nothing counterfactual about
the topic. The truth is more subtle than that. (And therefore harder to
explain.) Also, as Jerry's example illustrated, the rules have changed
over time.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-08 15:37:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
The sentence seems to commit the speaker to its truth. That is, the
speaker doesn't seem to regard it counterfactual.
Not, it commits Kyrie Irving to that belief. The person reporting it is
not (in this sentence, anyway) expressing an opinion.
Jerry came up with an example of the form "heretics said <clause
containing subjunctive>, but they lie". But that was Old English, and
the language has changed since then. In modern English we would not use
a subjunctive in that example.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.
Unlikely. It sounds like someone who is arguing against the proposition
that the earth is flat.
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions about
the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't. It's misleading. You can have
I wish it weren't!

Cf. The Sydney Opera House was built with lousy acoustics. I wish it wasn't.
Post by Peter Moylan
counterfactual statements that don't use a subjunctive, and you can have
a subjunctive in examples where there is nothing counterfactual about
the topic. The truth is more subtle than that. (And therefore harder to
explain.) Also, as Jerry's example illustrated, the rules have changed
over time.
CDB
2019-01-08 17:00:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
Jerry Friedman:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
Pronounced ['kajri], apparently. Too bad: I was hoping for ['kiriE], of
course.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
The sentence seems to commit the speaker to its truth. That is,
the speaker doesn't seem to regard it counterfactual.
Not, it commits Kyrie Irving to that belief. The person reporting
it is not (in this sentence, anyway) expressing an opinion.
Jerry came up with an example of the form "heretics said <clause
containing subjunctive>, but they lie". But that was Old English,
and the language has changed since then. In modern English we would
not use a subjunctive in that example.
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off
the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.
Unlikely. It sounds like someone who is arguing against the
proposition that the earth is flat.
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions
about the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't. It's misleading. You
can have
I wish it weren't!
Cf. The Sydney Opera House was built with lousy acoustics. I wish it wasn't.
"I wish it hadn't been". (Or "is built", but I don't recommend that.
Maybe "is plagued by".)
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
counterfactual statements that don't use a subjunctive, and you can
have a subjunctive in examples where there is nothing
counterfactual about the topic. The truth is more subtle than that.
(And therefore harder to explain.) Also, as Jerry's example
illustrated, the rules have changed over time.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-08 18:49:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by CDB
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
Jerry Friedman:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
Pronounced ['kajri], apparently. Too bad: I was hoping for ['kiriE], of
course.
I think that would have to be a girl.
Post by CDB
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
The sentence seems to commit the speaker to its truth. That is,
the speaker doesn't seem to regard it counterfactual.
Not, it commits Kyrie Irving to that belief. The person reporting
it is not (in this sentence, anyway) expressing an opinion.
Jerry came up with an example of the form "heretics said <clause
containing subjunctive>, but they lie". But that was Old English,
and the language has changed since then. In modern English we would
not use a subjunctive in that example.
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.
Unlikely. It sounds like someone who is arguing against the
proposition that the earth is flat.
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions
about the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't. It's misleading. You
can have
I wish it weren't!
Cf. The Sydney Opera House was built with lousy acoustics. I wish it wasn't.
"I wish it hadn't been". (Or "is built", but I don't recommend that.
Maybe "is plagued by".)
But none of those shows the use of the indicative. Only was/were can do that.
Post by CDB
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
counterfactual statements that don't use a subjunctive, and you can
have a subjunctive in examples where there is nothing
counterfactual about the topic. The truth is more subtle than that.
(And therefore harder to explain.) Also, as Jerry's example
illustrated, the rules have changed over time.
CDB
2019-01-09 15:28:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
Jerry Friedman:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is*
flat."
Pronounced ['kajri], apparently. Too bad: I was hoping for
['kiriE], of course.
I think that would have to be a girl.
The religious one is a masculine vocative, so his mother could have used
it to call him in for supper.

[It's a counterfactual existence, really]
Peter Moylan
2019-01-09 01:36:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by CDB
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
Jerry Friedman:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is*
flat."
Pronounced ['kajri], apparently. Too bad: I was hoping for ['kiriE],
of course.
Whenever I see the tennis player Nick Kyrgios mentioned on TV, I can't
help thinking "Kyrgie eleison".
Post by CDB
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions
about the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't. It's misleading.
You can have
I wish it weren't!
I spent a few minutes deciding on whether to write "wasn't" or "weren't"
there, but I finally settled on "wasn't" as being more standard, at
least in current AusE. It's a good example of the rules changing with
time. Also with country, I imagine.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
CDB
2019-01-09 15:29:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by CDB
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
Jerry Friedman:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is*
flat."
Pronounced ['kajri], apparently. Too bad: I was hoping for
['kiriE], of course.
Whenever I see the tennis player Nick Kyrgios mentioned on TV, I
can't help thinking "Kyrgie eleison".
Post by CDB
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in
discussions about the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't. It's
misleading. You can have
I wish it weren't!
I spent a few minutes deciding on whether to write "wasn't" or
"weren't" there, but I finally settled on "wasn't" as being more
standard, at least in current AusE. It's a good example of the rules
changing with time. Also with country, I imagine.
Yes, and with context. I hear the counterfactual "wasn't" often, and
use it sometimes, but I would only consider it correctable here. As I
recall, I used it a few lines later in that post, so as not to discriminate.
Madrigal Gurneyhalt
2019-01-08 17:48:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Yurui Liu
Jerry Friedman於 2019年1月7日星期一 UTC+8上午3時50分21秒寫道:
Post by Jerry Friedman
"The basketball player Kyrie Irving says the Earth *is* flat."
The sentence seems to commit the speaker to its truth. That is, the
speaker doesn't seem to regard it counterfactual.
Not, it commits Kyrie Irving to that belief. The person reporting it is
not (in this sentence, anyway) expressing an opinion.
Jerry came up with an example of the form "heretics said <clause
containing subjunctive>, but they lie". But that was Old English, and
the language has changed since then. In modern English we would not use
a subjunctive in that example.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by Jerry Friedman
"If the Earth *is* flat, why don't cats push everything off the edge?"
I guess the sentence might be uttered by someone who is not sure
whether the earth is flat.
Unlikely. It sounds like someone who is arguing against the proposition
that the earth is flat.
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions about
the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't. It's misleading. You can have
I wish it weren't!
Cf. The Sydney Opera House was built with lousy acoustics. I wish it wasn't.
"... hadn't been", Shirley!
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-08 16:02:39 UTC
Permalink

Post by Peter Moylan
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions about
the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't.
Like PTD, I'd say "I wish it weren't." Well, I like to think I
would.
Post by Peter Moylan
It's misleading. You can have
counterfactual statements that don't use a subjunctive, and you can have
a subjunctive in examples where there is nothing counterfactual about
the topic. The truth is more subtle than that. (And therefore harder to
explain.)
This probably depends on your definition of "subjunctive".
Post by Peter Moylan
Also, as Jerry's example illustrated, the rules have changed
over time.
Indeed, there may still be a few people who would say, "If the Earth
*be* flat, why are there time zones?"
--
Jerry Friedman
CDB
2019-01-08 17:11:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman

Post by Peter Moylan
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions
about the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't.
Like PTD, I'd say "I wish it weren't." Well, I like to think I
would.
Post by Peter Moylan
It's misleading. You can have counterfactual statements that don't
use a subjunctive, and you can have a subjunctive in examples
where there is nothing counterfactual about the topic. The truth
is more subtle than that. (And therefore harder to explain.)
This probably depends on your definition of "subjunctive".
Post by Peter Moylan
Also, as Jerry's example illustrated, the rules have changed over
time.
Indeed, there may still be a few people who would say, "If the Earth
*be* flat, why are there time zones?"
It sounded better before they dropped "that". "If ('give') that the
earth be flat ...".

It seems obvious to me that "if" (like the Scottish "gin") is a
worn-down form of "give" ("given", for Scots). The hypothesis is
unsupported by the online etymological dick*, but I don't care.

Partridge (_Origins_) repeats the same spiel, but then adds "perhaps
rather from the O[ld]G[ermanic] r[oot] of "to give" -- cf OFris /jeft/,
if, alongside /jeft/, a gift -- in sense '/granted that/', hence
'suppose ...', hence 'if'." Amen to that.
_________________________________
*Won't let me copy-paste. What would you call it?
Madrigal Gurneyhalt
2019-01-08 17:50:25 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman

Post by Peter Moylan
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions about
the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't.
Like PTD, I'd say "I wish it weren't." Well, I like to think I
would.
Post by Peter Moylan
It's misleading. You can have
counterfactual statements that don't use a subjunctive, and you can have
a subjunctive in examples where there is nothing counterfactual about
the topic. The truth is more subtle than that. (And therefore harder to
explain.)
This probably depends on your definition of "subjunctive".
Post by Peter Moylan
Also, as Jerry's example illustrated, the rules have changed
over time.
Indeed, there may still be a few people who would say, "If the Earth
*be* flat, why are there time zones?"
Well that's very inconsistent. If the Earth be flat why be there time
zones?
Ken Blake
2019-01-08 19:23:30 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, 8 Jan 2019 08:02:39 -0800 (PST), Jerry Friedman
Post by Jerry Friedman

Post by Peter Moylan
The word "counterfactual" is thrown around a lot in discussions about
the subjunctive, but I wish it wasn't.
Like PTD, I'd say "I wish it weren't." Well, I like to think I
would.
Post by Peter Moylan
It's misleading. You can have
counterfactual statements that don't use a subjunctive, and you can have
a subjunctive in examples where there is nothing counterfactual about
the topic. The truth is more subtle than that. (And therefore harder to
explain.)
This probably depends on your definition of "subjunctive".
Post by Peter Moylan
Also, as Jerry's example illustrated, the rules have changed
over time.
Indeed, there may still be a few people who would say, "If the Earth
*be* flat, why are there time zones?"
LOL! I'm not a flat-earther, but I'm against the idea of time zones. I
think we should use UTC everywhere, and let some people work 9 to 5,
others work 1 to 10 and so on.
Jerry Friedman
2019-01-04 14:30:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
There are DIFFERENT WAYS of expressing a conditional in English depending
on whether the situation is:-
A true/likely/factual or
B false/unlikely/impossible/counterfactual.
A - the likely one - is constructed with the present simple and the future.
If we have the money, we will buy some sandwiches.
B - unlikely - If we had the money we would buy a yacht.
If your first language is Spanish or Italian or French or German,
then you will know that here "had" is subjunctive/conjunctive


No, if his or her first language were French (si sa langue maternelle
*était* le français), he or she would know that "had" there is
indicative. That's one of the reasons not to be dogmatic about what
"subjunctive" means.

What you said is true about Spanish. I don't know about German or
Italian.
--
Jerry Friedman
Paul Carmichael
2019-01-04 17:05:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by s***@my-deja.com
If your first language is Spanish or Italian or French or German,
then you will know that here "had" is subjunctive/conjunctive

No, if his or her first language were French (si sa langue maternelle
*était* le français), he or she would know that "had" there is
indicative. That's one of the reasons not to be dogmatic about what
"subjunctive" means.
What you said is true about Spanish. I don't know about German or
Italian.
It makes life easier in Spanish, because the subjunctive is always different. Although the
words have been hijacked for formal indicative stuff (imperative).


http://dle.rae.es/?id=bXkUiz2

(click "conjugar").

I'm finding the whole subjunctive/konjunctiv thing difficult in German, because it's not
so clear-cut. They even mix tenses, as I've mentioned here before.
--
Paul.

https://paulc.es/
https://asetrad.org
Peter Moylan
2019-01-04 21:57:53 UTC
Permalink
On Thursday, January 3, 2019 at 7:30:58 PM UTC-5,
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole
sentence should be "If there were a 20-story office building
without an elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor
would climb many steps each day." Would you say "was" above is
indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the
sentence.
There are DIFFERENT WAYS of expressing a conditional in English
depending on whether the situation is:- A true/likely/factual or B
false/unlikely/impossible/counterfactual.
A - the likely one - is constructed with the present simple and the
future. If we have the money, we will buy some sandwiches.
B - unlikely - If we had the money we would buy a yacht.
If your first language is Spanish or Italian or French or German,
then you will know that here "had" is subjunctive/conjunctive

No, if his or her first language were French (si sa langue
maternelle *était* le français), he or she would know that "had"
there is indicative. That's one of the reasons not to be dogmatic
about what "subjunctive" means.
What you said is true about Spanish. I don't know about German or
Italian.
Unlike English, French and Spanish and Italian also have a conditional
tense, which is an indicative tense. Because it can be used for
counterfactual clauses, it overlaps some of what would be called
subjunctive in English.

(German sort of has a conditional tense, but it's constructed as an
auxiliary-plus-infinitive form, like the English "would" constructs. In
English we could, if we wished, give a different tense name to all of
those things constructed with auxiliary verbs, but in practice we find
it less confusing not to do that.)
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Quinn C
2019-01-08 23:18:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
(German sort of has a conditional tense, but it's constructed as an
auxiliary-plus-infinitive form, like the English "would" constructs. In
That's not quite right. The Konjunktiv - a mood that encompasses
functions of conditional and subjunctive - can be expressed by
inflected forms, but they can be and are often, especially in the
spoken language, replaced by the synonymous constructions with
auxiliary.

I guess non-natives can get by learning the inflected forms only for a
dozen or so common verbs.

In case of further interest, the refrain of this song is completely in
the Konjunktiv, no auxiliaries used:

<https://lyricstranslate.com/en/ich-woll%C2%B4t-ich-waer%C2%B4ein-huhn-i-wish-i-were-chicken.html>
--
Some things are taken away from you, some you leave behind-and
some you carry with you, world without end.
-- Robert C. Wilson, Vortex (novel), p.31
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-05 00:19:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
No, if his or her first language were French (si sa langue maternelle
*était* le français), he or she would know that "had" there is
indicative. That's one of the reasons not to be dogmatic about what
"subjunctive" means.
What you said is true about Spanish. I don't know about German or
Italian.
Thank you - that is helpful.

I can modify my post as follows:-
"Somebody who has the subjunctive/conjunctive in their own language
can appreciate that "If I were you" in English uses the subjunctive
even if the equivalent phrase in there own language does not."

What is difficult is to explain the subjunctive to somebody
whose first language does not have tenses.

It is hard enough to explain it to a native English speaker who
went through school at a time when grammar was not being taught.
Madrigal Gurneyhalt
2019-01-05 00:41:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Jerry Friedman
No, if his or her first language were French (si sa langue maternelle
*était* le français), he or she would know that "had" there is
indicative. That's one of the reasons not to be dogmatic about what
"subjunctive" means.
What you said is true about Spanish. I don't know about German or
Italian.
Thank you - that is helpful.
I can modify my post as follows:-
"Somebody who has the subjunctive/conjunctive in their own language
can appreciate that "If I were you" in English uses the subjunctive
even if the equivalent phrase in there own language does not."
What is difficult is to explain the subjunctive to somebody
whose first language does not have tenses.
Are there *any* languages that don't have tenses? Subjunctive
is a mood.
s***@my-deja.com
2019-01-05 01:27:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by Madrigal Gurneyhalt
Post by s***@my-deja.com
What is difficult is to explain the subjunctive to somebody
whose first language does not have tenses.
Are there *any* languages that don't have tenses? Subjunctive
is a mood.
If the language does not have tenses, the idea of mood is much
harder to convey.

In Mandarin Chinese the verb does not change. Time words
convey "when".

I suppose you could argue that this is tantamount to having tenses
but to misquote Dr McCoy "They are not as we know them" It is a
totally different system.
b***@aol.com
2019-01-04 17:27:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
CDB於 2019年1月2日星期三 UTC+8下午11時21分55秒寫道:
Post by CDB
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
As the sentence is written, it should be "was": indicative, not
subjunctive.
Why the indicative?
For your sentence to make sense with the subjunctive, you should
have written e.g. "... office building _without an elevator" to
make the if-clause counterfactual, as 20-story office buildings do
exist.
Post by Yurui Liu
In addition, even if the indicative should be used, shouldn't that be in the present tense?
It can be in the present or the past tense, depending on whether
you're referring to a present or past situation:

- If there is a 20-story office building <today>, those whose office
is on the 18th floor climb many steps each day.

- If there was a 20-story office building <e.g. 50 years ago>, those
whose office was on the 18th floor climbed many steps each day.
Post by Yurui Liu
Post by CDB
I think "those whose offices were" would be even better, unless all the
stairclimbers had the same office.
Peter Moylan
2019-01-03 01:01:49 UTC
Permalink
Hi,
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the main
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office was /
were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
You could make "were" correct by changing your example to:

If there were a 20-storey office building - but of course, it's unlikely
that anyone would build such a tall building - then those whose office
was on the 18th floor ...
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Colonel Edmund J. Burke
2019-01-07 17:04:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Yurui Liu
Hi,
I'd like to know whether "was" or "were" should be used in the
If there were a 20-story office building, those whose office
was / were on the 18th floor would climb many steps each day.
I'd appreciate your help
Was and were are always used in conditional clauses, you idiot chink.
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