12.1 Why there are so many verb tenses in the conjunctive from

It is useful to understand why there are so many verb tenses in conjuntive.

In roman languages, and therefore as well in Portuguese, for every verb in indicative mood there is a tense in conjuntive mood. Since the sequence of tenses cannot be respected if that is not the case, only languages with a complete set of tenses in subjunctive can realise the subjunctive coherently. Languages like german or English have a conjunctive as well, however it is not a coherent system. The subjunctive is used if an action is immagined, because someone fears, hopes, believes, etc. something it and it must be possible to clarify whether the imagined action has happened before, at the same time or after it had been imagined.

before: I thought he had come in. => The action is performed before being imagined.
at the same time: I thought he came in. => The action is performed at the same time it was imagined.
after: I thought he would come in. => The action is performed after being imagined.

Obviously the anchor, the moment of imagination, can be as well in the present (I think he has come in / I think he is coming in / I think he will come in.)

We will see later on, see chapter 14, that the problem is the same in indirect speech, the sequence of tenses has to be respected. In other words, the term indirect speech is superfluous and confusing. It suggests that it is a special phenomenon. This is not the case. The indirect speech is only a special case of the sequence of tenses in general.

(This term only makes sense, if this is not the case. In german for instance there are indeed special rules for the indirect speech. If this is the case, it is a special phenomenon, however in most languages that is not the case.)


In Portuguese there is one important exception concerning the statement that any time in indicative has a corresponding time in subjunctive. The pretérito perfeito composto do indicativo doesn't correspond to the pretérito perfeito composto do conjuntivo. While the pretérito perfeito composto do conjuntivo is used in the same context it is used in any other roman language to describe an action of the immediate past that has an impact on the present, the pretérito perfeito composto do indicativo is used when an action is repeated constantly until the present. That sounds perhaps very similiar, but is a completely different thing. The difference is the same as between the present perfect and the present perfecto continuous. We will talk about that later again, see 12.2.3.




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