General Writing and Grammar Help/Related to a sentence.

Advertisement


Question
QUESTION: Hi, Johnathan Clayborn, pleased to find you on this website. I'm looking for an answer to a sentence which I have found  in one article crafted by a writer working for The Economist. I was thinking if you could explain the meaning of this sentence for me, whose first language is not English. I'd be grateful if you could help me figure it out. Thanks.

 Here is my question : in this paragragh  "critics would argue that Likud, the Israeli right more broadly, and Mr Netanyahu personally bear a large share of the blame for making the two-state solution impossible; it seemed far more realistic in 1993. But it's not clear that Israelis would ever have been willing to offer a bargain Palestinians could accept, or could have mustered the will to drag religious settlers out of Beit El kicking and screaming." Is  the author talking about the past when he writes " but it's not clear that Israelis would ever have been willing to offer a bargain Palestinians could accept"? I'm baffled by the meaning and usage of would have been willing to or would have been doing something.

 Best regards.

ANSWER: Hi Robert, apologies for the delay. Interesting question!

To answer your question, yes. "would have been willing" is past-tense. In this case the author is casting doubt on a previous action. It's speculation because we only know what was done, not what might have been done. "Would be willing" is the same phrase in present-tense. If you see that phrase, for example: "I do not known if my boss would be willing to give me the day off", then that means present-tense.  

As a general rule of thumb "have been" is almost always the past-tense version of "be/being", "are" or "am".
Examples:

I will be quiet (future tense)
I am being quiet (present tense)
I have been quiet (past tense)

You are talking (present tense)
You have been talking (past tense).
etc.

I hope that makes sense.

Kind Regards,
-Johnathan

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for taking your time to answer the question and sorry to bother you again. I wondered if you could help me figure out a few questions related to third conditional tense , which seems to be bothersome and impenetrable for me. Thanks,

 My first question is does the sentence " if the ref had the balls, he would have sent him off" have the same meaning as " if the ref had had balls, he would have sent him off"? Or do both sentences make sense to you?

 The second question is: is it okay to write if the team had had an outstanding goalkeeper, it would have or could have won that game?

 And I just found three sentences which are related to conditional , and I'd like to know if the sentences are correct or not.

 The first one is:" we might have had a good time if we had gone to the party."

 The second one is: "I might have called a taxi if I knew it was raining." I was thinking about changing it to I might have called a taxi if I had known it was raining. Which one is correct or do they have the same meaning?

 The third one is: if he were advising you, he would have told you not to take risks. Is it correct? Is it talking about the past or now?

 Best Regards.

ANSWER: Hi Robert, see my answers below.

My first question is does the sentence " if the ref had the balls, he would have sent him off" have the same meaning as " if the ref had had balls, he would have sent him off"? Or do both sentences make sense to you?
-Both sentences mean the same. While you might hear people say "had had" in everyday speech, it's not grammatically correct. The sentence also means the same as "If the ref had balls...." without either "the" or the other "had".



The second question is: is it okay to write if the team had had an outstanding goalkeeper, it would have or could have won that game?
-See my comment above about "had had". One had is correct.



The first one is:" we might have had a good time if we had gone to the party."
- This is correct.



The second one is: "I might have called a taxi if I knew it was raining." I was thinking about changing it to I might have called a taxi if I had known it was raining. Which one is correct or do they have the same meaning?
-Both essentially mean the same thing, but the first one is present tense and the latter one is past tense.



The third one is: if he were advising you, he would have told you not to take risks. Is it correct? Is it talking about the past or now?
- The way this is written it is past tense. The present tense version of this sentence is: "if he were advising you, he would tell you not to take risks."

I hope that makes sense.

Kind Regards,
-Johnathan

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for your reply. Do you mind answering another question related to grammar?  I found this sentence  "I could have been watching "Inglorious Basterds" now, if the storm hadn't caused the power outage in the theater" online. Is it the author reffering to a past event or present event? I thought we could only use could have been doing or could have been to talk about past events. Why would the author use now in this sentence? Is it correct?  I also found a similar case in another sentence, say, he could have been Prime Minister now but he got involved in a big financial scandal. I'm still confounded. Is it correct?  I'd be grateful if you could explain it for me. Thanks.

 Best Regards

Answer
Hi Robert,

In the example that you cited about Inglorious Basterds, the author is not using correct grammar. His use of "could have been watching" implies past tense, however the inclusion of "now" implies present tense. Instead, he should have written either:

"I could have been watching "Inglorious Basterds", if the storm...." This would be past tense.

or

"I could be watching "Inglorious Basterds" now, if the storm..." This would be present tense.

I suspect that you will find many such examples online where people do not always get the grammar correct. I would wager that this is the case more often than not. Just taking a random sample of people I interact with on social media, this is frequent. People say "ah well" when they mean "oh well". They say "famous" when they mean "infamous". There are other examples, but I think you get the point. It's difficult learning a new language. And when people speaking that language don't always follow the rules of that language it can be hard. Practice will help. Read a lot and ask questions. It'll start to make more sense. Most of the time the native speakers aren't as focused on which rules of grammar are being used, or broken, but rather what the intended message is.

I hope this helps.

Kind Regards,
-Johnathan  

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Johnathan Clayborn

Expertise

I can answer a broad range of questions about both academic and creative writing. I can answer questions about APA format, research and references, essay structure and more. I am particularly helpful in the areas of character development, storyline development, etc. and I can provide authors with an array of tools to help them organize their work.

Experience

I minored in English for my Bachelor's degree. I have also written several books and I run a small publishing company (before you ask, we're not accepting submissions at this time). I have written both fiction and non-fiction books and I have been published in newspapers and written articles for major internet websites.

Organizations
Alpha Chi, Psi Chi, Kappa Delta Pi, APA

Education/Credentials
MS, Educational Psychology, BS Psychology (English minor)

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.