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Hello

A grammar book of mine (A Communicative Grammar of English, 3rd Edition, Longman, Leech & Svartvik) talks about "putative should" as follows.

[1] I'm surprised that there should be any objection.
[2] I'm surprised that there is an objection
There is a difference between [1] and [2]. In [1], it is the 'very idea' of the objection that surprises me, not the objection as a fact.


I'm quite uncertain what the authors are talking about by saying "the 'very idea' of the objection that surprises". Does they mean the sentence mean "I'm surprised at such an objection"? If so, why not "such an" but "any" is being used here?

paco
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Hi Paco,

A grammar book of mine talks about "putative should" as follows.

[1] I'm surprised that there should be any objection.
[2] I'm surprised that there is an objection
There is a difference between [1] and [2]. In [1], it is the 'very idea' of the objection that surprises me, not the objection as a fact.


I'm quite uncertain what the authors are talking about by saying "the 'very idea' of the objection that surprises".

I think your book is right.

In 1, I thought that no-one could possibly want to object, that there was nothing to which anyone could possibly object.

In 2, I knew that objections were possible in theory, but I didn't think anyone would actually stand up and object.

Clive
Hello Clive

Thank you for the quick reply. So what the two sentences differ in is simply the degree of likelihoods of an objection occurring? Or do they differ in the degree of the strength of the speaker's belief that there will be not any opposition?
Paco

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Hi,

So what the two sentences differ in is simply the degree of likelihoods of an objection occurring? No.

Or do they differ in the degree of the strength of the speaker's belief that there will be not any opposition? No again.

It's not a matter of degree, it's more absolute. In the 'should be' version, the person was convinced that there was absolutely no possibility of an objection. In the other version, he knew an objection was possible, but he didn't expect one.

I'm talking about the real, underlying meaning here. In practice, we don't always use the 'should be' construction so absolutely, we often speak a bit more carelessly. But I think you want to understand the difference.

Clive
Clive

Thank you again. I'm sorry for bothering you so much. But may I continue? Frankly I did not still get clear so called putative use of "should". The book gives another example: "It's a pity that you should have to leave". How different it is from "It's a pity that you have to leave"? In this case, the speaker should know "you" is going to leave, and so the sense of "should" would be different from that in "I'm surprised that there should be an objection". My brain is still cloudy. Please help me if you have a time.

paco
Good morning, Paco,

"It's a pity that you should have to leave". How different it is from "It's a pity that you have to leave"? In this case, the speaker should know "you" is going to leave, and so the sense of "should" would be different from that in "I'm surprised that there should be an objection".

>>>>>>>>

That's a very good question. I think the difficulty here is that a native speaker just uses the word without conscious analysis and categorization, whereas a learner approaches it from the other direction.

'Should' is used in a lot of different ways. Consider this. It is used to express the idea that something is important or must be done. I'm anxious that you should understand. It's also used to express a personal reaction to something. It's surprising that you should say that.

I think It's a pity that you should have to leave falls in this area. In this type of example, I'd agree with you that the difference is a matter of degree.

Clive
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Hello Clive

Good morning!Here in Japan we have a few hours till the daybreak. I'm afraid I would sleep in the meeting this noon.

Thank you for the kind explanation. Reading your message now I got what "putative should" is. One of the factors that have led me astray was that the authors of my grammar book are using the term "putative". "Putative" is a word rather unfamiliar to me. What I know about "putative" is only that it is used in expressions like "He is the child's putative father". But now I came to understand what they call as "putative should" is what I was taught as "emotional should". If I am right, I think you use "should" this way when you want to express your emotion about anything that gets you surprised, frustrated, or pleased.I hope this understanding of mine is right. I appreciate your kind help very much.

Have a nice day!

paco
I have seen similar putative sentences. "I am suprised that he should feel lonely."(1) "I am suprised that he feels lonely." I don't remember the exact sentences in Quirk's "A Comprehensive English Grammar". I wonder if the first sentence can be written as "I will be suprised that he should feel lonely", since "feel lonely" is not a certain fact. I will be suprised if this is a fact. In the book, the author also compares the first sentence with the conditional sentence "I would be suprised if he would feel lonely".(2) Does the conditional carry the meaning that "feel lonely" is less likely to happen than in (1) in the speaker's opinion? Thanks for your help.
My two cents.

I think [1] is a commentary on
I believe there should not be any objection. (I believe that an objection is not to be expected.)
An objection occurs, and I say:
I'm surprised that there should be any objection. (I certainly didn't expect one. / I wouldn't have expected one.)

I think [2] is a commentary on
I believe there will not be any objection. (I believe that an objection will not occur / is not to be predicted.)
An objection occurs, and I say:
I'm surprised that there is an objection. (I certainly didn't predict one. / I wouldn't have predicted one.)

In a way, the difference between [1] and [2] is the difference between expectations and predictions.

CJ
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