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I came across this sentence in the one of the English knowledge tests, and it really confused me. It turned out that I cannot say "I'd love to live in the 19th century" because of some grammar rules related to the past tense.

I searched about this, but all I got were only more questions and misundestanding. Some sources said that I can use the "I would have loved" construction, but I'm not sure whether I can use it in this case.

So, which of these examples are correct and what sense do they convey?

  1. I would love to have lived in the 19th century
  2. I would love to live in the 19th century
  3. I would have loved to have lived in the 19th century
  4. I would have loved to live in the 19th century

And what about continuous tense?

  1. I would love to be living in the 19th century
  2. I would love to have been living in the 19th century
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  • 1
    I remember having this self-same discussion with another Dennis 30 years ago. I favor #4, but not sure if there is an actual grammar to cover it. I think you need to think of it as a past wish...otherwise, possibly #1 works, as it describes a current wish about a past event.
    – Cascabel
    May 17 at 17:54
  • I've voted to close as this question is more appropriate to English Language Learners.
    – WS2
    May 17 at 18:02
  • 1
    I am not in favor of closing this Q...as far as I can see, there is no dupe, and I do not think the Q is trivial.
    – Cascabel
    May 17 at 18:09
  • 1
    It seems to relate to time travel, which is notoriously difficult when it comes to tenses. Are you saying you would have liked to have been alive then, or that you would like to go to the past and live there, after what you've already lived through in the present?
    – Stuart F
    May 17 at 18:12
  • 2
    'I'd love to live in the nineteenth century' models on 'I'd love to live on Nineteenth Avenue' and is perfectly grammatical. It is (outside of time-travelling fiction) on the other hand nonsensical ('I'd love to ...' demands a possible, however remotely, scenario) and so unacceptable on other grounds. May 17 at 18:13
3

There are two ways of looking at this:

#4 expressing a past irrealis

I would have loved to live in the 19th century

#1 expressing a present wish about a past situation

I would love to have lived in the 19th century

...and possibly a third suggestion:

#3 expressing a past wish describing the sustained action of living out your years during the 19th century.

I would have loved to have lived in the 19th century

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  • @EdwinAshworth I am hoping that someone can find a CGEL reference to cover this, but I don't remember one...
    – Cascabel
    May 17 at 18:41
  • I'll try again. Only to be expected :) Oh no, THs Fang and Biggles have disappeared. May 17 at 18:58
  • @EdwinAshworth I am sorry, but I do not understand...I hope you are happy and healthy. I can report that today I got my vaccination, but maybe that is making me a little dizzy and slow.
    – Cascabel
    May 17 at 19:01
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    I'll let you off. The Spanish Inquisition ... May 17 at 19:04
  • @EdwinAshworth O crap...yeah I am definitely off-games today. I actually deleted that bit...I thought nobody would get that...
    – Cascabel
    May 17 at 19:05
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You can't logically say I'd love to live in the 19th century, because it makes it sound like a future possibility.

I would love to have lived in the 19th century - I would love to have had that experience.

I would have loved to live in the 19th century - if I had been alive then I would have enjoyed the experience.

Since time travel is not a reality, both sentences in effect mean the same.

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