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"He would have never dreamed that he would get the grant or that he would have got the grant ? " which is correct? according to most grammars only the first is correct(future i the past) but I gather from sources and spoken language that the second alternative is also correct or is it just tolerated as many other incorrect utterances/expressions are?

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Both would+infinitive and would have+past participle can be used to express the future in the past.

If you said "I believe that I will get the grant", that would backshift to "I believed that I would get the grant".

If you said "I believe that I will have got the grant", that would backshift to "I believed that I would have got the grant".

You could say either "I can't imagine that I will get the grant" or "I can't imagine that I will have got the grant", depending on the intended shade of meaning, and when talking about the past, the latter backshifts to "I couldn't imagine that I would have got the grant".

From Thomson & Martinet, A Practical English Grammar (1985), ch. 21:

The perfect conditional... is used... (c) as a past equivalent of the future perfect:

I hope he will have finished before we get back.

I hoped he would have finished before we got back.

(Note: BrE uses "I have got" and "I would have got", etc; AmE uses "I have gotten" and "I would have gotten", etc; both varieties use "I have got" as a colloquial equivalent to "I have" as a present tense main verb expressing possession.)

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  • your answer is satisfactory from a grammatical point of view, but I have noticed the perfect conditional used by native speakers in sentences that don't semantically backshift to future perfect. I mention native speakers because for an Italian to use this tense instead of would + verb would be an understandable mistake as he/she would be translating from his/her native tongue.
    – Inaeugenia
    Oct 28, 2017 at 15:02

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