3

Examples where the matrix clause is in past tense and the subordinate clause uses the modal auxiliary verb will:

  1. It was very hard to leave and to think that you will never come back, and I never thought that I will never come back.

  2. I thought that they will play with the children of aliens and buy expensive things each day. I thought that when my children will be at age 10, they will be able to handle spaceships and go to other planets without my permission.

  3. I thought that everybody will think I was weird or something and then leave me.

  4. I thought that the sanctions will not be effective.

  5. I thought that I will be talking with something else in this conference with you.

  6. They thought that the prices will go down.

  (All are from COCA)

If you can use the examples above, then can you also use both the cases below?

  1. I thought that you would send me the photocopy.
  2. I thought that you will send me the photocopy.

If you can, there’s no way to know, by the sentence alone, whether sending the photocopy is realized in #7, I guess. Then in #8 can you tell if the sending is realized or can’t either?

expanded contexts:
#1.
second time in his life, with military officers kissing his feet, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi had no choice but to leave. FARAH PAHLAVI: My husband was crying. I was trying not to cry. It was very hard when you leave your homeland, where you've been born, on a cold winter morning in an empty airport, and especially more than myself, my husband, who had dedicated his life for the well-being of the people. It was very hard to leave and to think that you will never come back, and I never thought that I will never come back. PETER JENNINGS: (voice-over) The country erupted in celebration DEMONSTRATOR We won our human rights by ourselves, not by the United States. Jimmy Carter knows that we want freedom, and we don't want his human rights anymore.

#2.
heavily crowded buses. They would have a separate limo for them and all the luxuries they would have. But this doesn't mean I will spoil them. They must study like I do. " # Prachi Shrivastava, India # " I think that most kids might be a little more spoiled and/or lazy, because as our technology' improves,' our lives will get easier and requiring not half the work. I will do my best to keep this from happening to my kids, though. " # Jo Warren, United States # " I thought that they will play with the children of aliens and buy expensive things each day. I thought that when my children will be at age 10, they will be able to handle spaceships and go to other planets without my permission. " # Shrey Datta, India # " My children will have computerized robots. They will play with weapons because weapons won't hurt people. Any time someone uses a weapon to shoot or stab someone the affected body part or organ will regenerate. " # Eran Bilbul

#3.
dear Jade... JOHN STOSSEL: (voice-over) On Jade's last birthday, she decided it was time to tell her cousins about her OCD. JADE GREGORY: I'm happy that you understand about my disease because I -- why I hid it from you guys was... JANICE GREGORY: OK, my love. JOHN STOSSEL: (voice-over) She'd tried to conceal her disease from them for years because she thought they wouldn't want to be friends with her. JANICE GREGORY: It's something she wants to say. JADE GREGORY: I thought that everybody will think I was weird or something and then leave me, and I was wrong. JANICE GREGORY: Yes, you were. JOHN STOSSEL: (voice-over) Telling was a relief. JANICE GREGORY: They love you just as much now as they've always loved you, honey girl. It makes no difference. JADE GREGORY: I always knew that. It's just -- that I really knew. JOHN STOSSEL: (voice-over) Still, most of the time Jade tries hard

#4.
is left of former Yugoslavia KING Tell us what you think of today's events - the rejection of the U.N. peace accord. Mr. PANIC: I think terrible. They just plain made mistake, in my view KING In turning it down? Mr. PANIC: In turning it down KING And now sanctions go into effect - midnight, right? Mr. PANIC: And that is another mistake, in my view KING Our sanctions are a mistake? Mr. PANIC: I think this is a- As you know, I continuously- From the very beginning, I thought that the sanctions will not be effective, economic sanctions KING Why? Mr. PANIC: Especially not against Yugoslavia. My idea was that we should put- that United Nations, if justifiably do not believe that Yugoslavia is helping Bosnian Serbs - the Serbs in Yugoslavia - helping Bosnian Serbs, they should put control. I proposed some time in August that United Nations put controls in our airport so there is no question that the Yugoslavian airplanes are not bombing Bosnian Moslems. Then I proposed on the borders is put

p.s. for #.5's original
And because this is not true at all, and I was not given any information on which the conclusion is based, unfortunately, it is not the best way to do it, but I would like to tell the story as it was, because you are the first person whom I meet after the telephone conversations besides my deputies and my chiefs of the departments, whom I immediately informed about the telephone conversation with the president. And since I agreed to meet you and today- when we saw each other last night at the presidential press conference, I thought that I will be talking with something else in this conference with you, but life is bringing us with unexpected surprises KOPPEL Full of surprises. Mr. BESSMERTNYKH: So that's the story KOPPEL I want to get into all the details of this, but first, since you just came out of a meeting with your deputies and the members of your staff, give me your own personal feelings. This, for a man who has risen to such a distinguished post, this must be a very difficult (Title: Soviet Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh Fired, source: ABC_Nightline, via: COCA)

#6.
in the Gulf, after the crisis, what happened was that oil prices went up. They went as high as $32, 31 to 32 dollars for WTI or Brent. So there was call by Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, after appeals made by Pres. Bush, himself. They went a long way in making telephone calls and asking everybody and appealing for increase in production of oil from those countries. So they decided to increase the production, they did. They went all to the maximum. They went all the way. So what happened? They thought that the prices will go down. It did for one day. Prices went down for 4 dollars, 5 dollars. What is the price today? It went up to more than $31, so it went back to what it was a few weeks ago. So it can not be reduced. The price of oil will continue to increase. Of course, it will increase more and more if the crisis will develop to a worsening situation, so the only way will be to have more oil

  • Listenever, could you please double-check the wording of your #5 example? – F.E. Oct 14 '14 at 0:17
  • I kinda thought all the examples to be okay (caveat: I'm assuming there's probably a typo in #5). Though, I kinda thought it was a bit interesting to see the use of "was" in your #3 example: "I thought that everybody will think I was weird or something and then leave me". – F.E. Oct 14 '14 at 0:22
  • @F.E. you can see #5's original on OP's p.s. – Listenever Oct 14 '14 at 0:38
  • Listenever, that is good info for #5, for it provides the context and also shows that it is a transcript of dialogue. Could you do a similar thing for your other examples? For that will help others to figure out how to interpret your examples. :) – F.E. Oct 14 '14 at 0:44
  • 1
    @F.E. It was not a big deal [it’s a copy and paste job]. If it were typing, oh. . . it would have been really a big deal. I’m not good at typing English. – Listenever Oct 14 '14 at 1:13
2

Most of these make sense without strict alignment of tenses. Some look like recollections of having thought, at a past Reference Time, that something would happen in a future which at Speech Time has not yet arrived.

1) I never [at that time] thought [what is now apparent:] that I will never return.

4) I thought [when they were announced] that the sanctions will not be effective; we will have to see if they are.

6} They thought [when I spoke with them this morning] that the prices will go down.

Others give a feeling of shifting into self-quotation, not marked with "":

2) I thought that "They will play with the children of aliens and buy expensive things each day." I thought that "When my children will be at age 10, they will be able to handle spaceships and go to other planets without my permission." ... But this one may be from a non-native speaker, as suggested by aliens and by when my children will be ...

3) I thought that "Everybody will think I was weird or something and then leave me."

The one that's left doesn't make any sense to me; I think there's a typo or a slip of the tongue somewhere:

5) I thought that I will be talking with something else in this conference with you.

ADDED:
Well, now I see the actual context, I seem to have batted about .667, which is pretty good, at least in baseball! I think I got #1, #2 and #3 right; it looks to me like #4 and #6 are probably self-quotations rather than predictions; and #5 still doesn't make any sense, so I'm taking credit for that one, too.

What's important here is that all of these are drawn from speech, spontaneous not scripted, and all but #1, #3 and maybe #6 are from imperfectly fluent non-native speakers (I except #1 because Empress Farah speaks excellent albeit accented English). These cannot be taken as models for written English.

  • If they are a recollection of some thought in the past, then the structure is incorrect, the 'that' indicates it is not a recollection, but an account. – mwotton Oct 13 '14 at 23:33
  • @mwotton I'm not following your argument. Mine is that some of those sentences make sense if we understand that the speaker is recalling (and narrating) a past prediction of a still-future eventuality. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 14 '14 at 0:12
  • Can I understand your words as?: ‘I thought that you will send me the photocopy’ can be ‘I thought [when I talked with you in the morning] that you will send me the photocopy’ or ‘I thought that ‘you will send me the photocopy.’ But although ‘will’ is not tense but auxiliary of mood (CGEL,p.209), you can’t say ‘you will send me the photocopy [at least until last night], never.’ (Can even this be possible? - my imagination!) – Listenever Oct 14 '14 at 0:20
  • 1
    Those are both possible. The "quotation" version implies that the speaker is hovering between reporting and quoting her speech - which in fact happens very often in actual speech, though it is not acceptable in written English. – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 14 '14 at 0:24
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    @Listever Even in colloquial English you can't have will in the consequence clause unless you still believe that to be possible; I can't see that working with thought until... – StoneyB on hiatus Oct 14 '14 at 1:35
0

Most of these sound 'wrong' to a native speaker. The tense is mixed up throughout several of the examples, and the structure needs to change if you want to keep the tense as it is in each case. For example:

It was very hard to leave and to think that you will never come back, and I never thought that I will never come back.

should be changed to one of the following:

It was very hard to leave and to think that you would never come back, and I never thought that I would never come back.

OR

It was very hard to leave and to think "you will never come back", and I never thought "I will never come back".

In the cases you list at the end, the first example sounds naturally correct. The second example needs to change:

I think that you will send me the photocopy.

Either I used to think you would send me the photocopy, or I still think you will. In the first case, the sentence is ambiguous - without further context I cannot tell whether the photocopy has been sent. In the modified second case, it is clear that the photocopy has not yet been sent, since I still think you will send it at some point in the future.

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