English Grammar

Willy has decided to retire....

What's the message of these sentences:

Willy decided to retire only after he secures his pension.
Willy has decided to retire only after he secures his pension.
Willy decides to retire only after he secures his pension.
Willy will decide to retire only after he secures his pension.

In all cases the fact of retirement will be in the future,
but the time of decision can be in the past, in the past with some consequences to the present (he still works), in the present or in the future.

And what about this: I sometimes feel that Willy decided, (has decided, decides, will decide) to retire only after he secures his pension. Does this little additional clause reduce the number of possibilities?


  • Dearest Gwendo, hullo!
    Are you so bashful or modest so as to qualify "little additional" a main clause telling about your own feelings? Willy's decision is now, I mean in your last sentence, subordinated to what the speaker feels! As the feelings of a speaker may have an extended range of nature and shades, the number of possibilities are infinitely high. (possibilities of the speaker, of course)
    Ah Q
  • I presume the number of possibilities you speak of, Gwendo, do concern the moment of the decision-taking and its duration in time.
    In my opinion, the fact that the statements about the decision are shifted from a main statement to a related one depending on the feeling of the speaker, doesn't change the truth value of the statements in themselves.
    The 4 statements, as you wrote them, are alternatives because they aren't all four true at the same time. It remains so in the relative clause of your last sentence. What has changed in this latter is that the speaker's feeling expresses now and then ("sometimes") that the related statement is true, letting think the opposite now and then (because of "sometimes").
    The true or false value of the statements doesn't change according to the fact of an independance or dependance of the statement. What's different is the truth value of the main proposition "I sometimes feel that.." which is said possibly true now and possibly false then.
    What do you think?
  • If Gwendo had read my yesterday text, she would have thought I was wrong to more than one point. She was actually right thinking I was wrong and she must have been cracked up. So much the better as one laughter a day keeps the doctor away.
    As an overzealous braggart I barged into Gwendo's thread without pondering beforehand and talked rubbish. Let's get back to the point.

    First and foremost, the first statement "Willy decided to retire only after he secures his pension" doesn't make sense at all. As there is neither close context nor time locution in the sentence pointing out the time when Willy decided in the past, the sentence doesn't make sense. If the decision has been made at an unsaid moment in the past, a correctly speaking person would say "Willy has decided..." So, we may get rid of that nonsense first statement. There are three left.

    I had given to understand that those statements were "alternative", meaning that they couldn't be true all at the same time. That was a bad reasoning marked by a dreadful a priori.
    There are indeed several reasons why Willy could have already decided in the past, be deciding right now and be about to decide again in the future. He might for example be a compulsive anxious man who needs to make all the time again and again the same decision in order to reassure himself about that decision.
    Besides, the statement "Willy decides to retire only after he secures his pension" doesn't imply that Willy is deciding at the moment the statement is handed out. It tells the general position of Willy. It always fits with any other of the two other statements. Taking this last remark into account, we may draw this way the POSSIBILITIES of matching the truth value of the statements with each other.

    Possibilities: 1 2 3 4 5
    Willy decides: T T T T F
    -has decided: T T F F F
    W.will decide: T F T F F

    That shows 5 possible matches.

    Now let's consider "I feel that Willy decides/has decided/will decide..." letting "sometimes" aside for the time being. One step at a time.
    Here we have to distinguish the feeling and the object of the feeling.
    Let's get starting with the main clause "I feel". It has two possible truth values: true (T) or false (F)
    If "I feel" is F, i.e. that I lye saying that I feel, this main clause cannot have any consequences because in logic F implies whatever. As a result we mustn't take it into account.
    Here we are with the possible combinations:

    F for "I feel that"
    D for "Willy decides ..."
    H for "Willy has decided..."
    W for "Willy will decide..."

    F D H W
    T T T T
    T T T F
    T T F T
    T T F F
    T F F F
    F - - -

    At this step of the calculation I for one would say there are 6 combination possibilities.

    Now we must add "sometimes" as a further factor. Go get it.
    "sometimes" is about "I feel that" as it is grammatically inserted. So it points out that at some times I feel and at other times I don't feel.
  • Oh Gee, thats no light diet at New Years Eve, but a bit much!
    Thank you very much!

    I like this probability calculus, we did it in former times for the vowels and consonants in words, what was more complicated because the i is less often than the e, and the e more often in endings than the other vowels.

    The GG-Language-Robot accepted only one possibility, namely:

    "I feel that Willy will decide to return only after he secures his pension."... so I was completely baffled and I stood there like a lemon. Even if the retirement will be in future, the decision time is equivocal or ambiguous, as I suppose.

    Einen guten Rutsch! (a good landslide = Happy New Year!) Hope to read many of your interesting explanations in 2009!

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