1. ParseNips
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    ParseNips New Member

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    Conditional Tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ParseNips, Jun 17, 2010.

    Hello everyone! Please help a beleaguered lover of the English language!. I have been doing battle over this sentence:

    Quite apart from his incorrect use of "affluent", I aver that he misused the conditional tense in his first clause.

    My argument went thusly:


    The argument I got back was:


    I maintain that the use of the conditional tense here is grammatically incorrect, and that therefore the sentence itself is grammatically incorrect.

    My opponent maintains that the sentence IS grammatically correct.

    Which of us is correct, and why?

    TIA!
     
  2. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    My view: it is grammatically correct but logically absurd.

    For example, if were to write “my cat has large hands,” the sentence would be grammatically correct, albeit that it’s utter nonsense.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    agreed!...

    grammar is ok, but meaning is muddled, since i would guess it's not exactly what the writer of that sentence meant to say, as i doubt that what he considered himself to be would contribute to his being bored...

    when 'would/could' is used as done there, it usually has an 'understood' qualifier ['if asked/if i thought about it' or whatever]...
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that it's nonsense, but grammatically correct nonsense. Whether the second part of the sentence could reasonably influence first doesn't change the fact that it's grammatically correct.

    It's like the old "Do you walk to school or take your lunch?" The fact that those two aren't mutually exclusive doesn't change the fact that the sentence is grammatically correct.

    Admittedly, it's easier for me to make my example make sense. I can easily imagine a town where if you live close enough to walk to school, it's assumed that you will walk home for lunch. I can't think of any scenario where your sample sentence makes sense.

    Well, actually, can't it make sense in response to a question?

    "Why do you refuse to write correctly? Are you illiterate?"
    "I'd consider myself fairly fluent in English, but I honestly hate being bored."

    The implication here is that writing correctly bores the speaker, so the second part of the sentence refers to the question, not just the first part of the sentence. Here, it makes sense to me, but does it remain grammatically correct?

    ChickenFreak
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    English is a context-sensitive grammar, so you cannot always separate structure from meaning (grammar from semantics).

    That is also why automatic grammar chickers are inherently imperfect. Unless the computer can understand te sentence's meaning, the grammar checking must be imprecise.
     
  6. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    This is still a bit absurd. But may be it will make more sense if the speaker was to be judged from what he was writing to be selected in the school's writing committee, and he was deliberately messing up the writing because he thinks writing committee is boring and he would rather be playing football instead.

    "Why do you refuse to write correctly? Don't you want to be in the committee?"
    "I'd consider myself fairly fluent in English, but I honestly hate being bored."
     
  7. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I believe the conditional in the first clause ("I would") has nothing to do with the second clause ("but I honestly hate being bored"). Instead, I believe it's an expression of politeness.

    In English, conditionals are often used to wrap a statement in politeness. Instead of saying "I want a breadroll", one is supposed to say, "I'd like a breadroll" ( = "If I received a breadroll, I would like it").
    In the same vein, "I'd appreciate if you were quiet" is more polite than "I want you to be quiet".

    I believe "I'd consider myself fairly affluent in English" is a more polite version of "I'm fairly affluent in English", and can be read roughly as, "If someone asked me, I'd consider myself fairly affluent in English, but I would never state it outright".

    Am I completely wrong here?
     

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