2

I saw the following example sentence in a dictionary:

It would ease my mind to know you had arrived safely.

(Longman Dictionary)

I'm curious about what the context could be, and why the past perfect is used. There is no simple past tense to act as an anchor for the past perfect.

The following is a brief dialogue. Do you think the sentence is correctly used here?

Mary: Why do you want me to give you a call when I arrive in Paris?

John: It would ease my mind to know you had arrived safely.

  • 2
    Interesting question! I think in practice many native speakers wouldn't bother with Past Perfect had in the cited context, and I certainly don't think many would notice and/or draw any conclusions as to the speaker's command of English if they heard the Simple Past form (...to know you arrived safely). But as regards your point about no simple past tense to act as an anchor for the past perfect, I'm guessing the relevant "past in the (future) past" is a contextually implied reference to the fact that the act of arriving precedes the act of knowing about it. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 9 '17 at 13:26
  • 2
    It will ease my mind to know you have arrived safely. It would ease my mind to know you had arrived safely. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 9 '17 at 14:31
  • Can I say "It would ease my mind to know you have arrived safely."? – Apollyon Aug 9 '17 at 14:35
  • 1
    @Apollyon - I would say that. – J.R. Aug 9 '17 at 15:13
  • 1
    The semantic context is different from the grammatical tense. would is the past tense of will, even though here it is being used as a conditional (and thus not as something occurring in chronological time but in hypothetical time, so to speak). – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 9 '17 at 16:25
1

"It would ease my mind to know you had arrived safely" is good American English -- but it's not past perfect. It just looks like past perfect!

It's actually a subjunctive form to express a hypothetical future situation.

The same example in an actual past perfect form would require a different, past-of-the-past context:

"It eased my mind to know you had arrived safely."

| improve this answer | |
0

The sentence

It would ease my mind to know you had arrived safely

is an extraposition of

To know you had arrived safely would ease my mind.

Because "it" is established as the knowledge that one had arrived safely, the usage of this sentence does not require a dialogue such as the one you gave; "It" would not have to refer to Mary's phone call.

The simple past in the sentence is would, which is the past tense of will. One possible context is that John wants Mary to know that in the future, his mind will only eased on the condition that he knows (once Mary has already arrived) that her arrival was safe.

Comparatively, the sentence:

To know you have arrived safely will ease my mind

implies that John wants Mary to know that his mind will be eased as soon as Mary tells him that her arrival (which has already happened) was safe, if perhaps Mary was keeping it secret.

| improve this answer | |
0

In English Past Simple is use to give general information. like in your sentence if it is in past simple will give simple general information of your arrival in some place.

"It would ease my mind to know you arrived safely."

How ever Use of Past Perfect tense gives more deep information of your arrival i.e. your activity of arriving in some place is perfectly completed. In other world no need to worry Mary about John anymore.

One more simple e.g. Police arrested XYZ. Gives only information of police arrest.

Police had arrested XYZ. Gives information completed/ Perfect action of police arrest.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

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

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.