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Scenario: There is a sale for this Sony LCD and it's $300. I bought it for $350 back then.

Are these correct? What do they mean?
1. I would save $50 if I hadn't bought that LCD back then.
2. I would have saved $50 if I hadn't bought that LCD back then. (Is it incorrect to use past perfect here? I wouldn't have saved anything back then right? It wasn't on sale before? So should I use the present tense imaginary 'would' instead? It is on sale now?)

Thanks.
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Comments  (Page 4) 
JTT
... we regard modal verbs as unmarked for tense

What you are (or the book is) saying is just about epistemic modals. Some root modals like 'will' (futurity) or 'can' (ability) have tense finiteness. So your saying cannot be generalized for all modals.

I agree most epistemic modals are free from 'tense', though still we cannot use some modals such as 'will' and 'can' for talking about the event that happened in the past even when they are used as epistemic modals. Anyway what epistemic modals connote is only the feeling/though the speaker has NOW, or more precisely speaking, during the time the speaker is uttering the sentence.

What I argued against in the previous messages is about your assertion that "I would save some dollars" contains a future meaning. Suppose a boy utter; 'I would save 50 cents if I didn't buy this popsicle now'. This means 'NOW I think that I can save 50 cents in the case I don't spend the 50 cents on this popsicle NOW'. This boy is not saying anything about future. It would be possible to suppose a situation he spends that 50 cents a few minutes later to buy some other sweet after he abandoned the idea of buying that popsicle. So I can't agree with your assertive saying that "I would save some dollars" contains a future meaning.

paco
What I am sincerely hoping now is that John Blair and George Bush will talk not about Iraq but about how modals are to be used in organized ways among English speaking people. Such a talk will save hundred millions of English learners in the world from wasting energy and time to learn silly and messy usage of English modals.

paco
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Good grief, Paco! You are surely not suggesting we let Bush loose on English grammar?! Emotion: surprise
1. I would save $50 if I hadn't bought that LCD back then.

JTT: This is simply nonsensical, Jack. No one needs grammar to tell them that once some money has been spent, it is impossible to save it.

I don't find this sentence nonsensical. As I mentioned in my first post¹, it conflates two IF statements, and would be clearer with a progressive tense in the main clause; but it's still comprehensible. Cf.

1. I would beat the brat with a baseball bat, if I hadn't been given that ASBO last week.²

In the context of 'noses pressed against the LCD shop window', it seems the natural thing to say.

MrP

¹ Past Perfect
² To clarify, the brat-bat sentence parallels the grammar of the LCD sentence.
Paco:
What you are (or the book is) saying is just about epistemic modals. Some root modals like 'will' (futurity) or 'can' (ability) have tense finiteness. So your saying cannot be generalized for all modals.

JTT: These aren't separate modals. They are modals with varying meanings. It is precisely because all modals can operate in all time situations that it is highly misleading to call them present/past tense.

Paco:
I agree most epistemic modals are free from 'tense', though still we cannot use some modals such as 'will' and 'can' for talking about the event that happened in the past even when they are used as epistemic modals.

JTT: This is not true, Paco. Every modal can be used "for talking about the event that happened in the past". Here's two examples that I've just made up.

That can't have happened.

That will have been Bob that said that.

Now, just for one collocation, "can't have been", googled, we see,

53,400 English pages for "can't have been".

Another search for will used in the past;

44,400 English pages for "will have already been".

Another search using shall

623 English pages for "shall have already".

Another search for the last "present tense" modal, may reveals

670,000 English pages for "may have already".

Paco:
Anyway what epistemic modals connote is only the feeling/though the speaker has NOW, or more precisely speaking, during the time the speaker is uttering the sentence.

JTT: That's right, Paco, speaker feeling or modality, not tense.

Paco:
What I argued against in the previous messages is about your assertion that "I would save some dollars" contains a future meaning. Suppose a boy utter; 'I would save 50 cents if I didn't buy this popsicle now'. This means 'NOW I think that I can save 50 cents in the case I don't spend the 50 cents on this popsicle NOW'. This boy is not saying anything about future. It would be possible to suppose a situation he spends that 50 cents a few minutes later to buy some other sweet after he abandoned the idea of buying that popsicle. So I can't agree with your assertive saying that "I would save some dollars" contains a future meaning.

JTT: You're right, Paco. The popsicle is in the boy's hand, the money has just passed into the clerk's hand and the though is running thru the boy's mind NOW. "I would save 50 cents if I didn't buy this popsicle.

"Excuse me, Sir. I don't want this popsicle."

"Okay, son, here's your money back." {the popsicle and the money change hands}

BUT there could also be any number of scenarios where it is a future. The crucial point of all this is that is NOT a past tense here, it can't even have a past tense meaning.
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Mr P wrote:
I don't find this sentence nonsensical. As I mentioned in my first post, it conflates two IF statements, and would be clearer with a progressive tense in the main clause; but it's still comprehensible. Cf.

1. I would beat the brat with a baseball bat, if I hadn't been given that ASBO last week.


JTT: Without even taking a peek at your first post, Mr P, I fail to see two IF clauses being conflated.

I would save $50 if I hadn't bought that LCD back then.

Perhaps you could point out these "two IF clauses" in both the original and in your #1, above.
JTT's eloquent exponential extrapolation should serve to make the least and the most
learned of us begin to arrive at the crepuscular conclusion that the spoken language
strives to achieve that glorious "moment" of total expression that historically only the
most gifted bard and operetta could know, and that is the magic of music. The mere
thought of anything other than that "moment" is become totally and utterly trivial, as
we experience the passage of time as a fluid and perfect flight. Is this striving among
we(us?), the less gifted, to be equated with... shudder... politics? I think not. Nor should we
rest at any diven vantage point of temporary success, and say, "this is as good as it gets".
We are the custodians of a living history in the spoken word, and just as the laws that
govern us as a people do, so, then, should the guidelines that help us better marry our words together in expressing every nuance of the human condition be practiced and evolve with us
as a species.
Celui ci, parchance, va sans dire- n'est ce pas?
The Showaddywaddy quote was startling, lookfar.

You should give fair warning.

MrP
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I was warmin' up w/my how to improve my grammar skills -post
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