2

Suppose we have two sentences:

There would have been nothing to speak about, if only behind his passion to take the whole world to court one could not trace a motivation far more titillating than your run-of-the mill paranoia.

and

There would be nothing to speak about, if only behind his passion to take the whole world to court one could not trace a motivation far more titillating than your run-of-the mill paranoia.

Are both acceptable? What is the difference between them? Is it that the first refers to the past? Is it more "narrow", referring to only that particular instance in the past? Or does it imply that someone did speak about something or did something while there was no need to?

Shouldn't the first option really run thus to be a grammatical third conditional:

There would have been nothing to speak about, if only behind his passion to take the whole world to court one hadn't been able to trace a motivation far more titillating than your run-of-the mill paranoia.

1

There would have been nothing to speak about...

refers to a timeframe in the past, relative to the time this statement was spoken/written.

However:

There would be nothing to speak about...

refers to a present or future possibility. It is not in the past.

For example:

There would have been many sales, if our products were any good.
(there were few sales up to now due to inferior products)

vs.

There would be a chance of rain, if we decide to go to the ball game.
(rain may occur when you are at the ball game)

  • Thank you! Would it be corret to say that the first of my examples would fit in a book narrative referring to the past whereas the second would not? – CowperKettle Oct 11 '14 at 5:31
  • If a person says sentence 1 to another person, intending to "speak about" that paranoid guy next, would he commit an error? – CowperKettle Oct 11 '14 at 6:17

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