1. Syne
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    Syne Member

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    Tense Question

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Syne, Sep 2, 2009.

    Let's say Max left his parents in order to go to school. Before leaving, he had told them he would get at least one 'A' by the time he returned. Max is returning home two weeks from now. He has several more tests remaining, but he is sure he will not get an 'A' in any them. The following sentences are Max's attempts to communicate his thoughts to us. In one, Max narrates his thoughts to us 1 hour after having them; before the events they speak of have taken place. In the other, he narrates his thoughts to us while they pass through his mind.

    In both sentences there are four distinctive times:

    1. When max should have studied.
    2. The present.
    3. When max would have gotten an 'A', had he studied.
    4. When Max goes home and meets his parents.
    In the narration from the future, there is a third time between 2 and 3 which is the narrator's present.

    Present: I dread the encounter, but know that if I studied more diligently, I will have gotten an 'A' by the time I get home.
    Past: I dreaded the encounter, but knew that had I studied more diligently, I would have gotten an 'A' by the time I got home.

    I assume (perhaps wrongly) that the first sentence is correct. However, what about the second? From the sentence, one cannot say if Max got home in the past or the future. The same for when he should have gotten the 'A'. Should I replace 'would' for 'will' in the past narrative? Or is there simply no way to tell aside from context?

    This isn't for an actual work, just something I've been wondering about.
     
  2. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    The 2nd reads correctly to me. The 1st one is odd because I think "studied" should be "study" to stay in the present tense:

    Present: I dread the encounter, but know that if I study more diligently, I will have gotten an 'A' by the time I get home.
     
  3. Syne
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    Syne Member

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    Ah, you're right. The problem is that the situation, as I've described it, doesn't showcase the problem I've been thinking of. Let me restructure the event.

    Max has finished all his tests, but they haven't been graded yet. The time for studying is over and the grades will be given on a later date. In this case, the times are the following:

    1. The tests for which Max should have studied.
    2. When Max thinks what is being narrated.
    3. [In the case of future narration, the narrator's present]
    4. When Max receives his grades.
    5. When Max goes home.
    So the verb in question is definitely 'studied' in the 1st sentence.
    The problem with the second sentence is that it would be correct not only for the above sequence of events, but also for the following sequence:

    1. The tests for which Max should have studied.
    2. When Max receives his grades.
    3. When Max goes home.
    4. When Max thought what is being narrated.
    5. Narrator Max's present.
    Is there a way to grammatically differentiate the sentence?
     
  4. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Those two sentences are all kinds of weird mainly because of the "by the time I got home." It's just awkward. Don't use them is my best advice.
     
  5. Syne
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    Syne Member

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    Ah, I have better sense than that :p
    It's just my idle grammatical curiosity.
     
  6. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lol, well, you actually sound like me. :)

    I'm not mamamaia or Cogito, so here's my opinion just based on instinct.

    Looking at the 1st sentence, if you flip the 2nd and 3rd parts of it around, it doesn't make sense because "if I studied more" indicates you're predicting a negative outcome, right? Also, how is it that you will or would have gotten an 'A' by the time you got home? It'd be because the grades would be out, but you wouldn't know your grades until you received your report card. When the instructor enters the A into the computer is not important, so basing the timing of the placement of the A in your grade book instead of when you would find out you got an A seems nonsensical.

    Your sentence: I will have gotten an 'A' by the time I get home if I studied more.

    Instead I would have written:
    If I had studied more, by the time I got home I could have expected to have received an A for that class.

    EDIT:

    And if you insist on a sentence in present tense, I would write:

    Present: I dread the encounter, but had I studied more diligently, I could be expecting to receive an 'A' by the time I get home.
     
  7. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Why am I reminded of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, when the biggest problem created by time-travel was all the grammatical problems that arose from people using past tense to describe a future event they time-traveled to, and all the strange sentences that came out of it?

    Past Perfect Tense: He looked forward to the encounter, because he studied diligently and got an 'A'.

    He's such a perfect kid.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the first is a muddle of tenses... has to be 'study' to match the rest of the sentence... but the rest of the sentence is also a mess... as is the second sentence... here are examples of how you can untangle the two sentences and have them make some sense:

     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    a) When the sentence is:

    I dread the encounter, but know that if I study more diligently, I will have got an 'A' before going home.

    To me it gives a feeling that he thinks he will manage to get an A grade over a period of time (perhaps coursework as well as an exam is involved). A prolonged struggle, anyway (so perhaps the 'encounter' is a bit odd here...)

    b) The other sentence:

    I dread the encounter, but know that if I study more diligently, I will get an 'A' before I go home.

    This seems like he thinks he will get an A maybe in the final exam right at the end of his time at school.

    Just my feelings. And we Brits like to use the present perfect for tiny added nuance like this, so we're more used to seeing it maybe!

    The past example is maybe more 'literary'. You could just say '...knowing that if I had studied...'

    P.S. Is 'gotten' considered formal/literary use? For us it would be 'got' of course. Just curious!
     
  10. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    "Have/Had/Will have gotten" is the proper conjugation of the verb "to get" in all the "perfect" tenses.

    As far as I can determine, the only time you want to follow "have" or "had" with "got," is when using "have got to," meaning a necessity or urgency as in, "I have got to go," or "I have got to find my keys."

    Charlie
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, it is, mh... in the us, anyway...

    charlie...
    the brits do a lot of things differently, as we know... and 'got' seems to be one of them...

    btw, 'have got to go' is not correct grammar, though often used... the correct way to say that is without the 'got' which is superfluous...
     
  12. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Present

    I dread asking Jill on a date because my ear was shot off an hour ago. If that bastard didn't blow my ear off, then by the time I ask her, she will have said yes.
    Of course, it makes no sense to write a confusing sentence like that. I chose to use a different example because it is more logical. The second sentence would be easy to understand if written like this. With only one ear, if I ask her out, she will say no, or worse, she will laugh at me.

    Past

    I dreaded asking Jill on a date because my ear had been shot off an hour before. If that bastard hadn't blown my ear off, then by the time I asked her, she would have said yes.
    I think this is what you were wondering about. I can't see a realistic way of combining it all in one sentence, however.
     
  13. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    'Have got to' is expressing a strong obligation to do something (It's a modal auxillary verb) and it's slightly stronger than the 'have to' (modal av). 'might' is a relatively low possibility modal after that etc... So it depends on the level of obligation you want to express, and in that case it isn't really wrong usage. It's just a choice over many (in Brit English anyway).
     
  14. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    In America, to express "have got to go," I would say, "We just have to go."

    "We better get going."

    "Time to go the bleep out of here."

    "It's seriously time to go."
     
  15. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although in the U.S. we also say, "I've got to go"--although it's usually more like: "I've gotta go." :)
     
  16. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Okay, I had to do a little google research to clarify this, I believe I have the information I was looking for, and it rather confirms what I said earlier about "gotten," at least in United States English.

    Yes, there are differences between British and U.S. usage of "got." (Coming from one of the websites I read: ) In the U.S., one is more likely to say, "Do you have this book?" while in the U.K. one is more likely to say, "Have you got this book?"

    Because of the use of the word "have," "have got" appears to be the present perfect tense. It is not, however. It is an idiom which is actually in the simple present tense.

    "He's got red hair" means "He has red hair," and both phrases are in simple present tense.

    "He's got to leave early" means, "He has to leave early," and both phrases are in simple present tense.

    It's often pronounced "gotta" in spoken English, but "gotta" is not acceptable in most writing. (Except, of course, dialogue.)

    In the U.S., at least, the perfect tense is always "gotten."

    "He has got a car" = present tense.
    "He has gotten a car" = present perfect tense.

    I do not know the matter of tense conjugation in Great Britain or whether the perfect tense in Great Britain is also "gotten", but it might be the same, and simple present or past tense as described above may be being confused for the perfect tense, when stating the differences, simply because "has got" in simple present tense may be more commonly used in certain context in Great Britain than in the U.S. On the other hand, it's possible that the perfect tense in Great Britain is different than in the United States, in which case, the word "gotten" doesn't even exist for them. I really don't know. Virtually everything I say applies only when talking about United States English, as it's all I know.

    To the matter of grammatical accuracy, "has got" and "have got" are informal. Personally, I see "informal" as a gray area in between "grammatically inaccurate" and "grammatically correct formal English." Not quite a grammatical error, but not formal English either. The phrases should be avoided in formal writing.

    "Gotta" is even less formal (a darker gray?) and should be avoided completely except in extremely informal writing (a personal letter, a message board posting, a comic strip) or, of course, in dialogue, which should reflect the spoken language.

    Charlie
     
  17. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Charlie:
    In British English 'gotten' isn't standard at all, it's either archaic use, a borrowed Americanism, or maybe exists in a regional dialect. It's very rarely heard or used, in other words.

    I wasn't sure, as I said, if this was formal or informal usage in the US. Thanks to you and Maia for your comments about this. It's good for me to know, if my students want to use 'gotten'!

    BTW, not all areas of the UK use 'have got' much, they just say:
    I have a cold/car etc.

    It's used A LOT, though to show
    some form of force/compulsion:
    Something has got to be done about this problem.
    or
    I have got to see that new film (I have strong feelings making me want do do this)

    I don't know if it's the same where you are from.
     
  18. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Okay...then, out of curiosity, how do the British distinguish between simple tense and perfect tense when using the verb 'got'?

    For example:

    I have got to see that new film. (Interestingly, "have got" is actually denoting a future action, something I want to do in the future.)

    That's simple present tense, and the sentence is perfectly fine in American English.

    Perfect tense (American) would be:

    I have gotten to see that new film.

    In this case, I've already seen the film. "Have gotten" is the present perfect tense, or, in the present I'm noting a past time I've "gotten" to do something.

    That's actually a great example to illustrate the difference between simple present tense and present perfect tense. Present tense is something I'm doing in the present. Present perfect tense is present tense, looking back to something done in the past. Past perfect tense is past tense, looking back to something done further in the past.

    How do you do the present perfect in that case, in Great Britain?

    Charlie

    Edit:
    By the way, here's past tense and past perfect tense in this example:

    He had got to see the film. (Simple past tense.)
    He had gotten to see the film. (Past perfect tense.)

    In the "had had" thread, I explained the purpose of past perfect. It's a time further in the past than past tense. Let me put the sentences in context, to help with understanding that:

    Well, he thought, sitting in the theater watching, he finally had got to see the film. He ate some popcorn as the end credits started to roll. Last month, he had gotten to see another film, and he was glad he finally was back at the movies.

    "Had gotten," past perfect, denotes a time a month ago. "Had got," simple past tense, denotes the "current" past tense.

    How would you do past perfect in British English?
     
  19. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    A little more googling (in a futile attempt to answer my own question about British conjugations and the perfect tense) further complicates the "got vs. gotten" discussion.

    (American English) Besides "present and past tense" verses "present perfect and past perfect," there are other differences of meaning between those two words.

    "I haven't got any money" means, I'm broke.
    "I haven't gotten any money," means, I haven't received a specific payment.

    Got seems to denote the act of possessing or having in your possession, while gotten seems to denote the act of receiving, retrieving or going to get.

    I've got my key means, I have it in my possession, it's in my pocket right now. I've gotten my key means, I've retrieved my key, I've gone and picked it up.

    In fact, you could have gotten something without having "got" it. Last week, I left my coat at the hotel. Have you gotten it? Yes, I picked it up yesterday. Have you got it? No, I brought it home and left it in my bedroom.

    The funny thing is, being an American and a constant reader, I'm very comfortable with these different uses and have heard and read them many thousands of times in my life. I've understood the verb tense differences as well as the difference between having "got" or "gotten" money, literally as long as I can remember, (though not always knowing there was a "name" for it, present perfect) having learned them all probably as a toddler while developing basic language skills and later as a small child while learning to read, but I just never stopped to think about them, like a wall one passed thousands of times since childhood but never stopped to look at before.

    Charlie


    Edit: I finally found a website that actually says specifically that the participle (perfect tense) is "got" in Great Britain and "gotten" in American English, which is pretty much what madhoca said.

    I suppose what confused me is the fact that there are so many other differences between the words and their potential usages.

    It was an education, though, learning so much about the word. I've even read some websites about the origins of the word (it goes back to the Middle Ages.) I've also found websites where arguments were actually sparked as to whether "gotten" is a word at all!

    Clearly, "gotten" is a word of ancient derivation, currently in use only in American English, either as a participle (perfect tense) or to denote receiving as opposed to possession.

    One more edit: I think I'm just about done with my research, as this subject made me interested, and I only want to add one more thing: I just read a forum discussion on another site (going back to 2006) that eventually degraded into a "Britain vs. American" debate on whose language is more "old fashioned" or "better" than the other. Knowing that I can be wordy at times, I worry that anything I may have said, may have been misconstrued, when all I ever sought is to understand. For the record: I have the greatest respect for all people and the language of their homes, and find the differences between the languages fascinating and enlightening. While I love to learn about those differences for knowledge's sake, I do not judge any correct use of language to be "better" than another. We all rent a small space on this speck of dirt in the cosmos, and we're all people, worthy of respect. I've a curious mind so I often ask questions and search for answers, but only for knowledge.

    Charlie
     
  20. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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  21. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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  22. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's why I love this forum, Charlie!
     
  23. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    :cool:

    I'm glad I only had to research "got/gotten" and not "love."

    :eek:

    I know from past reading that the word "love" has enough meanings in enough languages in enough contexts, to keep me researching for a long, long time.

    I love the forum too.

    :D
     
  24. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    this is being analyzed and argued to death... i gotta go, get outa here!
     
  25. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    [off topic] Whereas the Brits say "I'm having a sh*t", the Yanks say, "I'm taking a sh*t," which always leaves me wondering where they're taking it.
     

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