14.1 exercise: sequences of tenses

In a more restrictive sense by sequence of tenses is meant that an event, action, process is imagined or told. In this case we have to group the imagined or told event in a chronological correct way around the moment when it is imagined or told and this moment can be in the present or in the past.

In the following table we call the anchor the moment an event is imagined or told. We imagine an event if we hope, fear, are afraid of, wish, hate, consent, admit, think, believe etc.. We tell an action if we relate it, we speak about it, we explain it etc.. In grammar books a distinction is made between the sequence of tenses in relationship with verbs like to hope, to fear etc.. and indirect speech in relationship with verbs like to tell, to relate etc.. This distinction is not made here, because the phenomenon and the logic is the same in both cases. The distinction is even confusing, because it suggest that sequence of tenses and indirect speech, John said: My mother is ill => John said, that his mother was ill, are different things. However the indirect speech is only a special case of the sequence of tenses in general.

In roman languages, who has a full fledged system of tenses both in indicative and subjunctive we have to distinguish between verbs as to hope, to fear, to admit etc. who describes a subjective attitude towards hypothetical events and require the subjunctive and verbs like to tell, to think, to know, to relate that refers to events taken for objective facts and require therefore the indicative. Since English and german don't have a full fledged system in subjunctive, the sequence of tenses can describe the chronology in a systematically coherent way only in the indicative mood.

To illustrate the problem an example in indicative mood. In Portuguese the logic is the same in subjunctive mood, because to any tense in indicative mood, there is corresponding tense in subjunctive mood. (That in English we have to use the continuous form is irrelevant here. We only want to illustrage the basic scheme.)

the anchor is the present
before: He pulls back the curtain and sees that it has been snowing.
at the same time: He pulls back the curtain and sees that it is snowing.
after: He pull back the curtain and sees that it will snow.
the anchor is the past
before: He pulled back the curtain and saw that it had been snowing.
at the same time: He pulled back the curtain and saw that it was snowing.
after: He pulled back the curtain and saw that it would snow.


As we can see, it is tense itself that informs us about the chronology the events has happened. The verbal tenses have an semantic value. In theory we can clear the chronological order as well with adverbs and it is to assume that some languages do that. The sentences below are obviously wrong, but in theory it can work like that.

before: ~ He pulls back the curtain and sees that snow before.
at the same time: ~ He pulls back the curtain and sees that snow same time.
after: ~ He pulls back the curtain and sees that snow later.


The table below is a schematic presentation of sequence of tenses in both cases, in the case that the introductory verb requires the subjunctive and in the case that the introductory verb requires the indicative. Verb Tenses of the present means presente and futuro, verb tenses of the past means imperfeito and pretérito simples.

INDICATIVO
The event has ocurred tense of the present tense of the past
before
the beginning and the end is unknown or irrelevantimperfeitoimperfeito
accomplished action perfeito simples* mais-que-perfeito composto
(sometimes perfeito simples)
regular repetition until the presen pretérito perfeito composto**mais-que-perfeito composto
at the same time
general affirmationpresenteimperfeito
continuous formestar + infinitivo / Gerundioestar (imperfeito) + infinitivo / gerundio
afterwards
not accomplished actionfuturocondicional oder ir (imperfeito) + infinitivo
accomplished in the futurefuturo IIcondicional composto
CONJUNTIVO
the event has ocurred...tense of the presenttense of the past
beforeperfeito composto do conjuntivomais-que-perfeito composto do conjuntivo
at the same timepresente do conjuntivoimperfeito do conjuntivo
afterwardspresente do conjuntivo

imperfeito do conjuntivo
(sometimes condicional)


* Here we have a difference to all roman languages and english. The preterito perfeito composto, that formally resembles to equivalent compound tense in other languages, has a completely different function. Therefore we use the preterito perfeito simples. In conjunctive mood it works as in any other language.
** Possible, but rarely used, because a context like that is rarely given.

Some examples in English to understand the logic.

The introductory verb is in a tense of the present and the beginning and the end of the event is irrelevant are unknown: I think he worked there.
The introductory verb is in a tense of the present and the event happens at the same time it is imagined: I think he works there.
The introductory verb is in a tense of the present and the event happens after being imagined: I think he will work there.
The introductory verb is in a tense of the past and the end of the event is irrelevant are unknown: I thought he worked there.

Choose the right option in the following sentences. In some cases the translation in English may not be clear. The option to be used can than be deduced from the indications (tense of the present / at the same time etc.). In some case the mood (subjunctive or indicative) depends on the plausibility of the event and therefore a context would be needed to decide whether the indicative or subjunctive is to be used, but there is no context in these sentences and therefore only one mood is offered in these cases.

tense of the present / at the same time
Eu temo que não tão fácil.
I am afraid that this is not so easy.
tense of the present / before
Temo que uma longa viagem em vão.
I am afraid he has made a long trip in vain.
tense of the present / before
Espero que isso.
I hope that he has dealt with this issue.
tense of the past / at the same time
Esperei que a Maria no outro quarto.
I waited until Maria went to the other room.
tense of the present / before
Tememos que ele antes de termos fechado os portas.
We are afraid that he had escaped bevor we closed the door.
tense of the past / at the same time
Soube que numa empresa de segurança.
I got informed that he worked for an insurance company.
tense of the present / at the same time
Sabemos que alguns eleitores ainda indecisos.
We know that some voters are still indecisive.
tense of the past / afterwards
Ele disse que inacessível até voltar.
He said that he will not be available until his return.
tense of the present / at the same time
Ele diz que tudo bem.
He says that everything is alright.
tense of the past / afterwards
Nós dissemos que o fazer.
We said that we would do it.
tense of the present / at the same time
Alguns de vocês pensam que nós não aqui.
Some of you think that we don't belong here.
tense of the past / afterwards
Vocês realmente pensaram que eu isso?
You really believe that I will do that?
tense of the present / before
Não acho que ele isso.
I don't believe that she has said that.
tens of the present / at the same time
Não acho que nos muito.
I don't think that this helps us.
tense of the present / before
Acredito que agora isso.
I think that you has learned it now.
tense of the present / at the same time
Acredito que vocęs já .
I believe you already know each other.




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