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Hi all GE members and moderators

I happen to see the following sentence from LDOCE and I don't know what type of conditional it is.
" If he had noticed her presence, he gave no sign."

The main clause "he gave no sign" is in the past tense while the if-clause is in the past perfect. I haven't seen this before.

Please let me know about this. Many thanks

Collocations - notice somebody's presence
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Hi, Tony,

Though conditional in appearance, those sentences are in fact like logical propositions of the kind: If A is true, then B is true.

Unlike typical type 2 and type 3 conditionals, where the past simple and the past perfect in the condition express a hypotethical, counterfactual situation (with the past thus being unreal and referring, in the case of type 2 conditionals, to the present or future time: If I noticed her presence (now or in future), I'd run to greet her), in sentences like the one you quote the past tense expresses past time:

- If he had (in fact) noticed her presence, he gave no sign (= he gave no sign of having noticed her presence -- if he actually did).
quote:
those sentences are in fact like logical propositions of the kind: If A is true, then B is true.
Hello, Tony:

I agree for the most part with Gustavo's answer, the key point being that the past perfect in the antecedent of your example is not being used to refer to a situation that is contrary to fact but simply to a past situation.

The past situation would be prior to some given orientation time. Suppose I told you that he and she were both present in the same place at the same time. You ask me whether he had noticed her. I respond with the conditional.

The adjustment I wish to make to Gustavo's answer is that the speaker is not stating that one can logically infer the truth of "he gave no sign (of having noticed her)" from the truth of the proposition "he had noticed her."

Rather, the "if"-clause is simply stating something that is unknown to the speaker. What the speaker knows is that the man gave no sign of having noticed her. It's doubtful that he had done so; but if he had, he gave no sign.
quote:
the speaker is not stating that one can logically infer the truth of "he gave no sign (of having noticed her)" from the truth of the proposition "he had noticed her."


I agree, David, that Tony's is not the best example of the logical proposition I was thinking of. My definition would apply if some changes were made, for example:

- If he had noticed her presence, he had a reason to feel nervous. (He felt nervous and, if he had seen her, then his nerves were justified.)
Last edited by Gustavo, Contributor
quote:
" If he had noticed her presence, he gave no sign."
In this type of conditional, which Renaat Declerck (Conditionals: A Comprehensive Empirical Analysis; Mouton de Grutyer, 2001) terms an "indirect inferential" conditional, the real inference proceeds in reverse.

The hearer or reader is to infer the falsity of the "if"-clause situation from the truth of the "then"-clause situation. Here, the idea that he had noticed her is incompatible with his giving no sign of having noticed her.

In conversation, one person might ask, "Had he noticed her?," to which another person could respond, "He gave no sign of having noticed her," from which statement the hearer is supposed to conclude, "He probably hadn't noticed her."

Here's a more argumentative way of putting our conditional:
  • If he had noticed her, why didn't he give any sign of having noticed her?
quote:
[in] an "indirect inferential" conditional, the real inference proceeds in reverse.

The hearer or reader is to infer the falsity of the "if"-clause situation from the truth of the "then"-clause situation.


That is indeed a good definition and description of the case at issue. Thank you for taking the time to check it. Good find!
Thank you so much Gustavo and David for your explanation.

Let me say that again to confirm what I understand about this sentence.

"If he had noticed her presence, he gave no sign." --> What the speaker is sure of is "he gave no sign" and what the speaker might not be sure of is "whether he had noticed her presence or not."

So to paraphrase the sentence, I can say " He didn't give any sign of having noticed her presence."

Is that correct?

Many thanks and once again thank you so much.
quote:
Let me say that again to confirm what I understand about this sentence.

"If he had noticed her presence, he gave no sign." --> What the speaker is sure of is "he gave no sign" and what the speaker might not be sure of is "whether he had noticed her presence or not."
That's basically correct, Tony. The speaker does think it highly unlikely, though, that "he" had noticed "her" presence. While the speaker is acknowledging his lack of absolute certainty, he is also effectively arguing against the opposite.
quote:
So to paraphrase the sentence, I can say " He didn't give any sign of having noticed her presence."
That is a paraphrase of the "then"-clause, Tony, not of the entire conditional. You could paraphrase the entire conditional like this: "He didn't give any sign of having noticed her presence, so it's highly unlikely that he had noticed her presence." Compare:
  • If he is guilty, there is no evidence that he is.
That is a conditional of the same type, even though the tenses are different. "If he is guilty" acknowledges the absence of absolute certainty that he is not guilty. "There no evidence that he is [guilty]" provides a good reason to believe that he is not guilty.

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