Hi,

Below is an excerpt from an American drama, "24, season 3, episode 17".

To be honest with you, I don't know. I still can't believe he survived the blast in Bosnia. They must have captured him, otherwise he would have resurfaced. They would have put him in prison, tortured him for God knows how many years. Now he's holding our government responsible.

*** *** ***

The background fact is that the speaker have been assuming that the man was killedin Bosnia. But it surfaces that he is alive.

Among the two "would have PP"s, the first one is definitely about unreal situation, i.e. He didn't resurface. This kind of "would have PP" is well known, and almost all grammar books deal with this one. But the second one seems to be quite different. Here, the speaker seems to be assuming that they actually put him in prison and tortured him.

So, I inevitably reach the conclusion that "would have PP" has two kinds of interpertation, one is unreal, the other real. Am I correctly understanding? If I am correct, there seems to be no clear cut line that divides the two kinds of "would have PP"s. Therefore, we need to consider the context to figure in what meaning it is used?
1 2
Allow me to expand and I hope clarify the second "would have."

The first, as you note, is clearly about an unreal situation but so is the second, thus:

And if he had resurfaced they would have put him in prison, tortured him for God knows how many years.
I see, I see....

Thanks MalRey!!
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
After second thought...

The fact is that he hasn't resurfaced until now. The speaker is saying that the reason he hasn't resurfaced is that they must have captured him, i.e. He has been in a captured state until now.

So, I cannot help keep thinking that the second "would have PP" must mean something different from the first "would have PP".
pructusSo, I inevitably reach the conclusion that "would have PP" has two kinds of interpertation, one is unreal, the other real. Am I correctly understanding?
I believe you understand it correctly. The second would have can be seen as a would have of past probability.

We are certain they captured him. If they had not captured him, he would have resurfaced, and he has not resurfaced. This is the meaning of the first one. It's counterfactual, so we know that he was captured. In that case, They would have put him in prison. That is, 'They very probably put him in prison (when they captured him)'. Alternately phrased, 'It is quite reasonable to conclude that they put him in prison'.

pructusTherefore, we need to consider the context to figure in what meaning it is used?
Yes. Always. Not just for 'would have', but for many other constructions. You always have to use common sense and take context into account.

CJ
pructusThe speaker is saying that the reason he hasn't resurfaced is that they must have captured him
"must have captured him" meaning something like "surely they captured him" or "I can't believe they didn't capture him."

The fact that he has resurfaced means, regardless of anyone's belief, that he wasn't in fact captured. There must be some other explanation for his not resurfacing until now. It's been too long since I've seen this episode for me to remember but I'm sure that at some point they give the explanation.

Don't forget that 24 is what I like to call a "live action cartoon." It bears very little relation to reality; bad guys routinely make miraculous escapes and good guys routinely make absurdly stupid mistakes.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Thanks again, Calif!!

Thanks always for your crystal clear answers...
Thanks a lot Malrey...

I agree with your theory of "live action cartoon"...

I never thought that way at first, but as the seasons go on, now I figure.
1. Original text, Pructus: They must have captured him, otherwise he would have resurfaced.

2. Later post, MalRey: The fact that he has resurfaced ... he wasn't in fact captured.

I can't figure out how to get from 1 to 2! Emotion: smile

CJ
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Show more