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Subject:Future less vivid
Time:04:12 pm
I think that the recommendation of Latin grammar books, such as Wheelock's, to translate future-less-vivid conditionals (which use a present [imperfect] subjunctive verb in both the protasis and apodosis) with should in the protasis and would in the apodosis are making use of archaic English. In modern English the protasis should use the simple past or were if the verb is to be (I still consider was ungrammatical).

Take, e.g., a colloquial phrase like "I'd be happy if you came with." This represents something improbable in the future, i.e., "I'd be happy if you came with (but you probably won't)," and would be conveyed in Latin by a future-less-vivid conditional: si [mecum] uenias, gaudeam. You don't say, "I'd be happy if you should come with." Or consider the question, "What would you do if you won the lottery?" You don't say, "What would you do if you should win the lottery?"

I'm not saying that the should/would approach is bad English; it just sounds rather stuffy, and I wouldn't want to use it when translating if I could help it. We do sometimes use should in a protasis to make a condition doubtful, but in such cases the apodosis is still in the simple future: "If he should call (which is unlikely), you will need to take a message." But we can always just use a simple conditional, no matter how unlikely we think the condition is: "If you are ever abducted by aliens (which is very unlikely), you will need this aluminum hat." Either of these translations or the one above seems better to me for translating a future-less-vivid conditional than the "should/would" approach.

What do you think?

(Incidentally, I think that Future Less Vivid would be a great title for a sci-fi book!)

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lila_blue_b
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Time:2009-12-03 02:31 am (UTC)
Personally, I like and would use should/would when translating future less vivid conditionals from Latin because I like that it's slightly archaic in present day English usage. It's more precise in conveying the Latin, imo, and that's my preference when translating. Also, I hate how imprecise English has become in colloquial usage. I'm also all about literally translating verb tenses, including using the passive when the passive was used in the original Latin. *shrugs*

Also, I completely agree with you! Future Less Vivid would be an awesome title for a sci-fi book (or movie, or episode of Star Trek).
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lila_blue_b
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Time:2009-12-03 02:32 am (UTC)
And apparently, I'm really in to over-using "also" this evening...
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thaichicken
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Time:2009-12-03 03:43 am (UTC)
I think it depends why you're translating it. If you're doing a professional translation, or something that you want to sound nice in idiomatic English, than I think should/would is not necessary. But I agree with lila_blue_b too, that it's helpful if you need to think in terms of the Latin to use the should would because, at least in my mind, it is associated with that type of condition.

And another vote in favor of that being a title. :D
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hajenso
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Time:2009-12-03 07:17 am (UTC)
We have a perfectly normal-sounding future less vivid construction in current English: were to. "What would you do if you were to win the lottery?" (i.e. you probably won't, but...).
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chrysologus400
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Time:2009-12-03 02:53 pm (UTC)
Yes, "were to" is good (and is recommended in Bradley's Arnold Latin Prose Comp. in addition to should/would). It doesn't sound archaic. It's not as common in ordinary speech as the simple past, though (or so it seems to me).
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