1

My first question is: what tense should I use in the sentence below if I want to say that writing doesn't happen(it's hypothetical)

''I wouldn't want to see what he wrote/had written''

The second question is: if I use past perfect in the sentence ''I wouldn't want to see what he had written,'' does it mean that writing happens before seeing? Is there any change to simplify the tense to past simple and have the same meaning in the sentence above and this: (''I'd take the thing and then you'd take the thing I had taken'')? For example,

''I took/had taken my keys before you came home''

using past perfect in the sentence above, we just emphasize the action happening before coming, but past perfect isn't necessary here since it's very clear. Therefore, past simple is perfectly fine. So would past simple have the same meaning as past perfect in the sentences below?

''I wouldn't want to see what he had written/ wrote''

''I'd take the thing and then you'd take the thing I had taken/ took''

  • 1
    You understand that "I wouldn't want to see what he wrote/had written'' uses the hypothetical on whether 'I want to see' or not. If you want to say that "writing doesn't happen (it's hypothetical)," you need something like: "I don't want to see what he might have written." – Yosef Baskin Mar 23 '17 at 18:29
  • 1
    I'll provide the context. I was messaging my friend whom I was asking to ask my teacher if he could write a reference for me. The teacher isn't able to write in English, which means I was going to have to translate his reference about me. I didn't want to have any problems with him translating the reference for me, so I thought he could send me the reference and then I could pay to professionals for translating it. If he sends me the reference, it means I could read it(seeing a reference's unusual because it's private), so I asked my friend, ''Wouldn't it be awkward to see what he wrote?'' – user210670 Mar 25 '17 at 13:01
  • 1
    (Continuing) At the point, he hasn't written anything, which means writing is hypothetical, so I didn't know which tense to use, but my intuition told to use past simple(wrote). The question is: what tense should I use with this context? – user210670 Mar 25 '17 at 13:02
0

Staying close to your original form, you could say,

"I don't want to see what he might have written" or "I don't want to see what he might be writing."

You can keep your message simpler, since you don't want to see the reference (not hypothetically), and the reference will be what he writes (not hypothetically):

"To keep it private, I don't want to see what he writes."

  1. Secrecy -- A reference is useless if it's not positive. So you may assume it will be positive, no harm in that. And you will see it in the process of the translation, so don't worry anymore about secrecy.
  2. Translation -- If you are thinking that the translation will look like you tampered with the content, either through your involvement or in the translation, you can add a note like "Professionally translated from the original."
  • 1
    Thank you for the advice, but I also would like to know what tense I could use with the context in the sentence. – user210670 Mar 27 '17 at 18:52
  • Modals don't have any tense -- they're never inflected. However, if you don't want to explicitly use one, you can use past tense, extending the hypotheticality from the wouldn't want of the main clause (I wouldn't want to see what he wrote). Or you can add the perfect construction to the past, explicitly referring to the hypotheticality of the main clause (_I wouldn't want to see what he had written). Depends on how much you want to stress it. – John Lawler Jul 23 '18 at 21:08
0

For the first sentence, if he didn't actually write it, then you would say neither one. You'd say, "I wouldn't want to see what he would've written."

For the second sentence, since you're not already talking in the past tense, you wouldn't say "had taken." You'd say, "I'd take the thing, and then you'd take the thing I took." Only if you were using "would" in the first main clause to mean the past-tense of will would you use the pluperfect "had taken" (e.g., "Every day after the bell went off, I would take the thing, and then you'd take the thing that I had taken.").

For the third sentence, since you're saying it in chronological order, there's no reason to use the pluperfect tense. You'd say, "I took my keys before you came home." Now if you reversed the order of the clauses, the pluperfect tense would be proper (i.e., "Before you came home, I had taken my keys.").

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy