Reply to "Unreal Past"

Mr President posted:

Thanks for your concern but I didn't make up these sentences. This is the text where I have got the second sentence.

Yes, Mr. P. One of our members actually shared that text with me in e-mail after you asked your question. Please review our policy on the use of quotations. Whenever you quote something on this forum, you must show that you are quoting it (by using quotation marks or a quote box) and cite the source.

You'll notice that the sentence you asked about is not identical to the sentence in the quotation. "And hated publicity" has been changed to "as he hated publicity." Is it possible that you or whoever inspired you to start a thread about this thought that the sentence would be better with that change?

Whether or not that change was intentional, I am saying that "wished that people had left him alone" would be better phrased as "wished that people would leave him alone." The sentence doesn't mean to be saying that he had a past wish about something further in the past, but that's what it says in spite of itself.

Let me illustrate this with another example. Suppose I am telling you about a time when I couldn't drive through an intersection. At that time, I might have said: "I wish they would let me through the intersection." Similarly, in reporting that past wish, I'd say: "I wished they would let me through."

It would NOT make sense for me to report that wish by saying, "I wished they had let me through the intersection," just as it would NOT have made sense at the time for me to say, "I wish they had let me through the intersection." I mean to be talking about that time, not about some time prior to that time.

On the other hand, I could say in the present, "I wish they had let me through that intersection" -- because their not letting me through the intersection is now in the past. Similarly, in the future, I could refer back to the present (now) and say, "I wished [t0-1] they had let me through the intersection [t0-2]."

Last edited by David, Moderator