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I've been reading Pride and Prejudice and stumbled on this line:

What would she have said? How would she have behaved?" were questions with which she amused herself.

I can't wrap my head around the structure of these questions. What do they mean? Is there any reason why it's "she have" instead of "she has"? Are they in present perfect tense? They look like conditionals (would have), but I'm not sure.

Also, is the sentence "If he had chosen differently, how would he have turned out?" make sense if I want to ask a speculative question about a choice made in the past?

Thanks.

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The question "What would she have said?" is a question form of the sentence "She would have said". So "has" wouldn't work here: "She would has said." ...is very incorrect.

And yes, "If he had chosen differently, how would he have turned out?" sounds quite natural and means what you want.

  • "What has she done?" is possible, but now means she actually DID do the deed. It is no longer a conjecture. It comes from the sentence: "She has done it." – Stew C Feb 19 '17 at 21:12
  • Hey no fair, the question changed after I posted an answer, lol. Anyways, you are showing good comprehension already. They are ALL speculative questions about choices made in the past, as long as you don't use the word "has". I'll let someone else answer the verb tense name part, but they are conditional in the general sense that we are considering the results of changing the conditions of the original situation. But maybe not in the grammatical technical sense of "Conditional". Anyone? – Stew C Feb 19 '17 at 21:22
  • Thanks! What are the rules for creating hypothetical questions like those? I understand that "What would she have said?" is a question form of "She would have said something." It looks like a past unreal conditional, right? If there's no if clause, how does the conditional work? This is confusing : ( – Alexey Nekrashevich Feb 19 '17 at 21:29
  • Interesting. I just looked it up. This does seem to be a variant of a conditional as defined on wikipedia. Except that 1) Here the parts of the conditional are split into separate sentences, and 2) it's a question instead of a statement. So basically yes, it is a conditional. – Stew C Feb 19 '17 at 21:30
  • The if-clause can be implied. "She decided to tell him. What would I have done." is like saying "If it had been me, then what would I have done?" Or to imply a different if.... "She told him the name. What would I have told him? When would I have told him? Would I have told him?" – Stew C Feb 19 '17 at 21:33
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Reference

http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/grammar/if.htm http://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/grammar/conditional_special.htm https://grammarianism.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/determiners/ http://www.verbix.com/webverbix/English/say.html

You are correct, this is the "unreal condition", per the above reference, type iii condition not possible to fulfill (too late). Normal structure "would + have + past participle"

However, the complication comes in that the conditional sentence also contains a relative determiner (what) and a pronoun (she) and implies completion (she have said), subjunctive perfect tense as opposed to the past participle. Subjunctive perfect indicating possibility as opposed to indicative perfect representing certainty.

Look at the progression from the classic rule, to introduction of determiners and a pronoun:

  • if the circumstances were different, I would have said something else
  • if the circumstances were different, what would I say (use relative determiner)
  • if the circumstances were different, what would have occurred (type iii classic with determiner)
  • if the circumstances were different, what would I have said (subjunctive perfect)
  • if the circumstances were different, what would she say (use pronoun)
  • if the circumstances were different, what would she have been saying (continuous perfect)
  • if the circumstances were different, what would she have said (subjunctive perfect)

Therefore the sentence reads, if the circumstances were different (if + simple past), what (the relative determiner) would she have said (unreal conditional + perfect), meaning, "what would she" (lady Catherine was it?) have said. The tense is subjunctive perfect because the action would have been completed, but not with any certainty.

Additionally, indicative perfect does not work here.

  • WRONG: if the circumstances were different, what would she has said

That sounds horrible, it just doesn't work because you are speculating (conditional) whilst saying that "she has said" (indicative perfect) something which is a contradiction.

"If he had chosen differently, how would he have turned out?"

Yes. This sentence reads well and implies, if he had chosen differently, then speculatively, what could possibly have occurred, what might his job have been.

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