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For guesswork and theory making, we have observed (Chapter 10) we could use
PRESENT verb forms to speak about the FUTURE,
PAST forms to speak about the PRESENT,
ANTECEDENT PAST forms to speak about the PAST.
We have named this correspondence our linguistic Form Relativity. We may compare a few more President quotes.
No group and no Government can properly prescribe precisely what should constitute the body of knowledge with which true education is concerned.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, American President.
More than that, and breaking precedent once more, I do not intend to commence any sentence with these words ― „If George Washington had been alive today”, or „If Thomas Jefferson”, or „If Alexander Hamilton”, or „If Abraham Lincoln had been alive today”…
Theodore Roosevelt, American President
If I had permitted my failures, or what seemed to me at the time a lack of success, to discourage me, I cannot see any way in which I would ever have made progress.
Calvin Coolidge, American President
We have tried „meeting boats” with classic grammar, in Chapter 5 and Chapter 6. Let us visualize our basic language information, for the Affirmative. In his Understanding Grammar, Paul Roberts classifies sentences according to meaning and word order.
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We can view Modal verbs as introducing relativity. PAST Modal forms can refer to the PRESENT, for example. Modal verbs also can make the Conditional or Unreal Past, and show relativity for the grammatical PRESENT, PAST, as well as FUTURE. Let us integrate them with our picture of language information.
For the President quotes, grammar books may not tell whether a structure is a Conditional, an Unreal Past, or Modal use — and we may doubt patterns, if we do not get clear guidance on telling them apart. More, some grammar books will say the 3rd Conditional has the Past Perfect in the premise, and the Conditional theory does not tell real time (!)
With Perfect tenses, our syntactic HAVE helps tell about real time. It has an open real-time frame.
With the Unreal Past or Conditional, HAVE tells about hypothetical time. It is not part the real map, then. It comes with an auxiliary compass for relative time, and brings a closed, relative time frame. We attach the auxiliary compass to the Modal.
Naturally, it is work on the real map to matter, and humans map even the outer space.
When we make hypotheses, we do not assure what really happens. We give guesswork. We cannot be conclusive about the real time, then.
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Our time frames can tell a hypothetical time.
If we say we CAN or MAY work, the hypothesis goes into the FUTURE, too. Our time frame is open, and we can give our guesswork a bit of the real map: we would not say we could work, if it were impossible.
Language is not a record or chronicle. It gives us devices to express thought, also about time. It does not require absolute certainty about things coming true, for the thought to be real.
If we say someone MAY HAVE worked, we give the hypothesis a time frame closed regarding our main or head, real time. Saying, “She MAY HAVE finished by tomorrow”, or “She WILL HAVE finished by tomorrow”, we would close our hypothetical time on tomorrow. If someone asks what she HAS BEEN doing (about real time), and we answer, “She MAY HAVE BEEN working”, we close the hypothetical time on the time of speaking.
We can use our auxiliary time extent with all TARGET time spans. We just keep the Form Relativity (Chapter 10).
CAN is special. We use it to tell what we are really able to do; we have the skill, or even mastery and finesse. We do not use it with our target FUTURE hypothetical time.
Let us recur to the Past Perfect and „unreal time”. As all Perfect tenses, Past Perfect has our green HAVE, the auxiliary to help tell the time reference. It always implies antecedent matters or regards, similarly as with the Infinitive. We may remember from Chapter 9.1. that the antecedent might belong even with the Future.
Let us mind also Chapter 9.2. For relative time, we viewed our green, syntactic HAVE as a time anchor. We analyzed a few examples.
Let us now think about pooling of language information and transfer of features.
The Conditional or Unreal Past often are “backtrack logic”: we look to the consequent, to speculate on the premise. We can view the phrase had eaten as a transfer of antecedence from the consequent. We have similar phenomena with the Passive, where the object becomes the subject.
Our brainwork can depend on how we view structures. As above, we may not give some theories real maps and keep them with Relativity entirely, only to refer to our cognitive grounds. We might be too theoretical, to think what something would have been if it would not have been what it was.
We can view our Relativity as three logical extents to regard a time. Well, language is not a contract or thought police either, and we cannot force consensus in language, as in other matters.
Before we try a resolve on our syntactic HAVE as part the Past Perfect or an Unreal Past / Conditional antecedent, let us make a bigger picture for syntax expansion and transfer of features. Chapter 10.2. tells about the logic and the Progressive, for our linguistic relativity.