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  • Betrifft

    as if - tenses

    Imagine a text about modern technology, and then someone comments on a passage where the author talks about his attitude towards things like mobile phones, finally stating that he has no cell phone anymore.

    The comment:
    It sounds as if the use of modern technology HAS MADE/made him very unhappy. But now that he is free of it, he feeels better again.

    My question concerns the sequence of tenses. Is has made correct? But actually, his attitude has changed, so it should be the past tense. However, the problem could be that one also uses the past tense in sentences with "as if" to create distance (with present meaning).

    Any comments?
    Thank you very much in advance.
    VerfasserThe unwoken fool03 Mai 09, 14:55
    Na ja, die Ablehnung der Mobiltelefone besteht ja weiterhin; insofern ist die Nutzung von "has made" nicht falsch. Hätte die Ablehnung mit Abgabe seines Telefonknochens aufgehört, wäre die einfache Vergangenheit korrekt.
    #1Verfasser Werner (236488) 03 Mai 09, 15:51
    Aber in dem Satz geht es ja nicht vordergründig um seine Ablehnung von moderner Technik, sondern um die Tatsache, dass ihre Benutzung ihn unglücklich gemacht hat. Dann wird gesagt: "But now that he is free of it, he feels better again." Also, besteht dieses Gefühl nicht mehr. Darum würde ich "made", die einfache Vergangenheit benutzen. So wie: "It made him very unhappy at the time." Wäre der Mann noch immer unglücklich, wäre "has made" richtig.
    #2Verfassercatterpillar (591371) 03 Mai 09, 16:08
    You're right, unwoken fool, it should actually say ...

    It sounds as if the use of modern technology had made him very unhappy. But now that he is free of it, he feels better again.

    "has" is wrong because of the "if": we don't know if he was unhappy or not, but with "if," we're hypothesizing that he was, but also that he was unhappy before something else happened: he became free of it. Hence his unhappiness precedes his becoming free.
    #3Verfasser dude (253248) 03 Mai 09, 17:09
    I usually agree with dude, but not this time. I think the sentence ("It sounds as if the use of modern technology has made him very unhappy") is perfectly acceptable.

    (Although I probably would have said, "It sounds like ...")
    #4Verfasser Martin--cal (272273) 03 Mai 09, 18:45
    @Martin--cal: I agree with you on the basic premise, but the reason I'd prefer "had" is because of the sentence that follows.
    #5Verfasser dude (253248) 03 Mai 09, 19:01
    Both are correct. They just communicate different ideas.

    as if it had made him unhappy... subjunctive... implying it's contrary to fact, hypothetical

    as if it has made him unhappy... indicative.. implying it's factual or seemingly so

    not all if-clauses are hypothetical

    However, as Dude points out, the context of the next sentence makes had made more appropriate, due to tense (not mood).
    #6VerfasserPEG03 Mai 09, 20:22
    In this context, I would say the simple past ('made') is what you want.

    "It sounds as if the use of modern technology made him very unhappy." is correct if it is known that he is he is no longer unhappy and there was only one instance of him being made unhappy by the use of modern technology. In this interpretation "it sounds as if" is an introductory phase like "I get the impression that" (perhaps this is more common in BE), and there is no special contrast with reality.

    "As if" can be used with the "irrealis" for something that is counterfactual ("It is as if he were somewhere else."). Personally, I don't think this is most likely here.

    If the second sentence were not there, the present perfect would be correct and would imply that he is still unhappy.

    #7VerfasserMikeE (236602) 03 Mai 09, 21:02
    Yep - I agree.
    #8Verfasser Martin--cal (272273) 03 Mai 09, 21:03
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