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I'm reading a novel; here's a paragraph (the parts with " are the dialogues and without " the narration):

"That's just indecent!! Who could have written this!?"

My face reddened in anger. If I didn't yell something out, I wouldn't be able to hide my shaking! Ahh, who did write that!?.

Another different paragraph:

"Oh my, it's A! Thank you for always looking after B..!"

"Ah.. Ma'am.. He's also been looking out for.."

Why are you blushing just from meeting my mom!?

"Don't get all flustered! It really doesn't feel right! Let's go, A!"

Since A would continue to space out if I left her here, I grabbed her hand and dragged her out.

So I'm wondering why they use would instead of would have like in first paragraph I wouldn't be able instead I wouldn't have been able to. And in second paragraph Since A would continue to instead of Since A would have continued to I mean since the protagonist is narrating it means it's something that already happened so would have is more appropriate, isn't it?

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The subject of how tenses are used in story-telling is complicated. The narrator is often assumed to be speaking at a time in the past, but describing something that happened after that time.

Alternatives like "Since A would have continued to space out if I had left her here..." and "A would continue to space out if I left her here..." are both "correct", but the first option could be used if the narrator was speaking now, not speaking at some time in the past as in the written story. It therefore tends to "break the illusion" being created by the story teller that all this happened in the past.

The second option uses fewer words, and is also closer to what the narrator would have said or thought at the time the event occurred - which is probably something like "A will continue to space out if I leave her here..."

Those are two reasons for preferring the second option to the "would have" version.

  • I see.. but you said "but the first option could be used if the narrator was speaking now," well technically he's speaking now since he's narrating the story as it goes.. – VeryBadAtEnglish Aug 22 '17 at 22:09
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  1. If I had not yelled something out, I wouldn't have been able to hide my shaking.

  2. Since A would have continued to space out if I had left her there, I grabbed her hand and dragged her out.

  • This doesn't answer the question. It just changes the wording of some sentences in the source text. – ColleenV Sep 10 '17 at 13:28

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