1

I'm writing something and I'm having trouble figuring out which of these two is correct.

My gut feeling is that the first is correct and the second isn't, but also I think there might be no rule against either.

I thought the residents of EL&U might be able to confirm.

  1. Given the context, and what I now know about X, if I had requested it under my own initiative I would expect you to have counseled me against it.

  2. Given the context, and what I now know about X, if I had requested it under my own initiative I would have expected you to counsel me against it.


EDIT

As some have pointed out, it's hard for respondents to give a good answer because they don't know what X is, nor do they know the context.

I won't give the context fully except to say it's professional negligence - X is a particular procedure which one can buy as a service from a professional.

So the context is visiting a professional with a pre-existing problem, and being offered a non-essential extra which carried a risk of causing the same problem.

Incorporating this into my first sentence would make it read like so:

Given the context of functional problems, and what I now know about X - namely that it can itself cause the same functional problems - if I had requested it under my own initiative I would expect you to have counseled me against it.

Taking all this into account, I think it might be wise to just keep things in the present:

Given what I now know about X, if I did request it under my own initiative in the same context I would expect you to counsel me against it.


EDIT2

What I'm trying to convey is that I expect the professional to have an obligation to counsel me against this procedure because it carries a risk of causing a problem which I already have and for which I have sought their help.

  • When did the "expectation" (possibly) arise? – Rob_Ster Dec 30 '17 at 0:43
  • @Rob_Ster In the present, after learning what I now know – Charon Dec 30 '17 at 9:32
  • Your statement of your current expectation seems to run afoul of the idiomatic (and not terribly logical) use in English of (e.g.) "I would think" for "I think" and "I would expect" for "I expect." To avoid that complication, I recommend rephrasing the statement a bit: "Given the context, and what I now know about X, I believe that if I had requested it on my own initiative, you would have counseled me against it." The revised wording still has the problem that the first "it" seems to refer to "X" and the second "it" to either "X" or "requesting X"—but that is a separate issue. – Sven Yargs Jan 4 '18 at 21:50
  • I can't speak to what prescriptive grammar dictates, but as a native speaker (US) they both sound fine and your meaning will probably be understood correctly, and I would probably use both constructions in casual speech. If you want to appease nitpicking readers, I would go with Sven Yarg's suggestion. You have the expectations now. You didn't have the expectations at the time of the request, so there is no reason for the past or past perfect tenses. "I would expect" could be used for a hypothetical rather than past tense, but it's not hypothetical. You do have the expectation. – weissj Jan 5 '18 at 23:47
2
+50

Neither of your choices is really satisfactory.

  1. Given the context, and what I now know about X, if I had requested it under my own initiative I would expect you to have counseled me against it.

The problem here is that the expectation of negative counsel, though not the counsel itself, which did not occur, is a present event contingent on real and present information. You now know specific information that leads you to an expectation now about an event which, you surmise, would have happened (but didn't) in the past, contingent upon yet another unreal condition: your request. The clearest way to express this would be:

Given the context, and what I now know about X, if I had requested it under my own initiative, I expect you would have counseled me against it.

Now if you wish to hedge this expectation as a conditional or polite subjunctive, the counsel must still be expressed as an irrealis:

Given the context, and what I now know about X, if I had requested it under my own initiative I would expect you would have counseled me against it.


The problem with the second sentence is that it projects the expectation into the past but not the information that leads to it:

  1. Given the context, and what I now know about X, if I had requested it under my own initiative, I would have expected you to counsel me against it.

What is missing is a clear sense of "If I knew then what I know now." Expressing this, however, yields an unwieldy double conditional:

*If, at the time, I had known [whatever] and [had] requested it [whatever the antecedent] under my own initiative, I would have expected you to counsel me against it [whatever this particular it is].

Complicating any potential edit are the unknowns you've inserted: is X a person, and what is the antecedent of it? Yet even if these unknowns were expressed, a professional editor would most likely send this sentence back for a rewrite: there is really too much going on.

  • This is a good answer. Your last suggested sentence illustrates to me that I should convert the whole thing into a hypothetical in the present tense, rather than referring to events in the past. – Charon Jan 7 '18 at 17:34
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I am thinking it is #2.

Have is generally used along side a pronoun, it's tricky here because we have two pronouns, i and you. We want to use have in present tense whenever its possible, so in this case were looking at counseled vs counsel which is the present tense.

"have counseled" is in the past while "to counsel" is in present, I would definitely go with #2.

1
  1. Given the context, and what I now know about X, if I had requested it under my own initiative I would expect you to have counseled me against it.

My edits:

  • Given the context and what I now know about X, -- (compound conditional clause)
  • if I had requested it under my own initiative, -- (complex conditional clause)
  • [then (implied)] I would have expected -- (main clause)
  • you to counsel me against it. -- (complex objective clause)

Your sentence has very complex clauses, which is fine, but the subject of the main clause is I. So the sharing of the subject (I) in the preceding conditional clause beginning with the conjunction, "if", requires verbal tense consistency between those two clauses. That's the main problem.

I would also suggest removing the first comma (after "context"), to form a compound conditional clause with two objects ("Given the context and what I now know");

...and adding a comma after "initiative", to separate the second conditional clause from the main clause.

The relevant verbal fragments, phrased in past tense for consistency:

  • if I had requested
  • I would have expected

So my final draft differs significantly from either of your examples, and from the other examples as well:

Given the context and what I now know about X, if I had requested it under my own initiative, I would have expected you to counsel me against it.

The objective clause, "you to counsel me against it", does not need to agree in verbal tense, with the subject of the sentence.

http://www.softschools.com/examples/grammar/phrases_and_clauses_examples/416/

UPDATE: This version shifts the thought into present tense, to make it sound more like current policy.

Under these circumstances, if I were to request it under my own initiative, I should expect you to counsel me against it.

  • Good answer - your comma suggestions make sense. I think however that whilst the shift in tenses is acceptable, the sentence would be better if it was all in the present tense, as per my revision above. – Charon Jan 7 '18 at 17:37
  • I thought about that, because it is possible to word it that way. I would like to offer my version, which like my first one will be based on your original examples, as an update on my answer. – Bread Jan 7 '18 at 17:48
  • Please go ahead. – Charon Jan 7 '18 at 17:52
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2 is more correct, as it establishes the counterfactual conditional. If I had (counterfactual) ... I would have (counterfactual).

The problem with Given what I now know about X, if I did request it under my own initiative in the same context I would expect you to counsel me against it. is that the if creates a counterfactual situation, yet didis indicative (and incidentally, not present). Also, as you can see from the old entry, it is on one's initiative not under.

Given what I now know about X, if I were to request it on/by my own initiative in the same context I would expect you to counsel me against it.

This is still somewhat ambiguous, as the modifiers do not clearly associate themselves with the modified. If I were, on my own initiative, to request this, I would expect you, in the same context, to counsel me against it. Makes it clear which part is being modified (not necessarily those parts you intended. It is better than as written, but still no better than #2 (except in correcting under to on).

-1

As you say in your reply to @Rob_Ster's comment, the expectation is in the present.

So I believe that #1 is correct as you're saying that you expect the person to advise against it.

Additionally, #1 implies that you would in general expect them to advise against it. But #2 implies one of two thing. 1. You would have expected the person to advise against it, but you don't any more, as if the relationship between you and the person has changed since then (possibly the person broke your trust). 2. There was some sort of agreed protocol between you and the person in case this sort of situation arose, where the protocol would have stated that the person should counsel you against it.

  • #2 doesn't imply that at all. – Peter Shor Jan 7 '18 at 15:17

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