Section 21 == *more help*


21.1 = Probably --the presumptive

If you know something for sure, you can just say it flatly, and it fits on the timeline without effort. Things like la;Rkii kaam kar rahii hai , "The girl is working," or la;rkaa ;Tiichar se milaa thaa , "The boy had met with the teacher," aren't problematical. But perhaps because Urdu is adverb-poor compared to English, it also has some built-in solutions for cases when you don't want to make a flat assertion or truth-claim.

If you want to say that something is "probably" so, and thus assign it, say, a 75% probability rating, you use the future tense of that indispensable auxiliary verb honaa to replace hai or thaa . Thus:

"The girl will presumably be working" -- la;Rkii kaam kar rahii hogii
"The girls will presumably (habitually) watch TV" -- la;Rkiyaa;N ;Tii ;Vii dekhtii ho;Ngii
"The boy will presumably have met with the teacher" -- la;rkaa ;Tiichar se milaa hogaa

Note that there's no time indicator here. Thus you can quite well add us vaqt , "at that time," to the first sentence (since the progressive refers to an action in progress); and un dino;N , "in those days" to the second sentence (since the habitual refers to an action sustained over time); and us vaqt tak , "by that time," to the second sentence (since the perfect refers to a completed action), and these time expressions (or others of your choice) can refer to any time-- past, present, or future-- that the context requires and makes apparent.

Of course, it may not feel natural to make such time-shifted use of these forms. It's a kind of sophisticated usage that more common in formal writing and speech than in colloquial use. But try it as a thought experiment, and see if you can wrap your mind around it. Since the first part of the verb ( rahii, dekhtii , milaa ) is devoted to telling you the kind of action, and the second, honaa part is devoted to giving you the 75% probability rating, there's no part left that can give you temporal information. It's possible to contrive or imagine all kinds of situations in which you would want to make use of such exotic forms-- arguing about somebody's past actions in a court case; speculating about your cousin in Bombay; planning a bank robbery.

When somebody starts giving you grammar rules, it's always a good idea to test them by checking out the limit cases. Here an obvious limit case is honaa itself. And yet it too works; here are some examples:

"What must (presumably) be happening here?" (What do you think is going on?) -- yahaa;N kyaa ho rahaa hoga ?
"What must (presumably) habitually happen here?" (What activities could this place be designed for?) -- yahaa;N kyaa hotaa hogaa ?
"What must (presumably) have happened here?" (What would have left this mess behind?) -- yahaa;N kyaa hu))aa hogaa ?

The one truly ambiguous example: kyaa ;haal hogaa ? , which can mean either "What state of affairs will there be (in the future)?", or, as a presumptive, "What state of affairs will there presumably be (at some specified time)?" But the context would readily make the intended sense apparent. Translation is sometimes awkward, but that's the fault of English much more than of Urdu.


21.2 = Perhaps --the subjunctive

If we want to assign to something a fifty-fifty chance of happening-- or, so to speak, a 50% probability rating-- then we replace the future forms of the auxiliary verb honaa , as described above, with the corresponding subjunctive forms of honaa . Or to make the process even simpler, we can think of simply knocking off the gaa / ge / gii endings from the future forms of honaa that are used to mark the presumptive. It's possible to consider the gaa / ge / gii endings as affirming that the action of the verb "will" happen (or, in the particular case, of 21..1 will "presumably" happen), while the root-derived part of the verb simply proposes the action of the verb, as something that might or might not happen.

Because of this 50% probability rating, the subjunctive forms can be negated: shaayad vuh baazaar gayaa ho, shaayad nah gayaa ho ("Perhaps he might have gone to the bazaar, perhaps he might not have gone").

The comments about time-shiftability in 21.1 apply to the subjunctive as well as to the presumptive.

Grammatically-minded students might want to ask why, when each verb already has its own subjunctive form already, it also needs to have this more complex form of the subjunctive that uses honaa as an auxiliary verb. The answer is simple. The subjunctive that is made directly from the verb itself (kare from karnaa , jaa))e from jaanaa , etc.) refers always and only to future possibilities: shaayad vuh jaa))e can only mean "perhaps s/he might (at some point in the future) go." For this reason, I think of it as the "future subjunctive." By contrast, shaayad vuh gayaa ho refers to an action that's one point on the time line, and that might or might not hsbr taken place-- in the past, present, or future, as the context may require.

Since we've mentioned the direct "future subjunctive" forms like jaa))e , let me just make one observation about them. Their first-person forms are able in some cases to do the work not merely of "would" or "might," but also of the deliberative English "should." Thus mai;N jaa))uu;N can mean "I might go" or "(under certain conditions) I would go"; and with an (actual or implied) interrogative marker in front of it, kyaa mai;N jaa))uu;N ? can mean that I'm deliberating: "should I go?". Here's an example from Ghalib: {191,7}. This happens only in the first person, because one can't deliberate about choosing other people's actions. Cases like this often create translation problems: people confuse the deliberative "should" of the subjunctive ("should I have another drink?") with the morally imperative "ought" kind of "should" ("I should visit my sick friend") that is really expressed by chaahiye . But here the confusion is the fault of English, not Urdu.

For in English, the subjunctive is generally dying out. The grammar of "If it prosper, none dare call it treason" is often opaque to the younger generation. But this gives us a problem in translation, not in comprehension.


21.3 = If only! --the contrafactual

The contrafactual, or "irrealis," is a form with a 0% probability rating. Its grammar gives, right on the face of it, the information that the situation evoked by it is irretrievably and forever unreal, purely hypothetical, doomed not to happen..

"If only the girl had (at that time) been working!" -- kaash kih la;Rkii kaam kar rahii hotii !
"If the girls hadn;t (habitually) watched TV, then their eyes wouldn't be weak" -- agar la;Rkiyaa;N ;Tii ;Vii nah dekhtii hotii, to un kii aa;Nkhe;N kamzor nah hotii;N
"If the boy had (once) met with the teacher, then this confusion wouldn't have taken place" -- agar la;rkaa ;Tiichar se milaa hotaa, to yih ga;Rba;Rh nah hu))ii hotii

The comments about time-shiftability in 21.1 apply to the contrafactual as well as to the presumptive and subjunctive.

The same question might arise in the case of the contrafactual, as in the case of the subjunctive-- namely, when every verb has a perfectly good contrafactual made directly from its root ( kartaa from karnaa , jaataa from jaanaa , etc.), why does the verb also need these complicated forms that use contrafactuals of honaa as auxiliary verbs? The answer lies in the available richness of information. Consider the following examples:

"If the girl had been (in the act of) looking that way, then the truck wouldn't have hit her" -- agar la;Rkii us :taraf dekh rahii hotii , to us se laarii nah ;Takraatii
"If the boys had (habitually) been coming to class, then they wouldn't have failed in the exam" -- agar la;Rke class aate hote , to imti;haa;N me;N fail nah hote
"If he had (once) done the cleaning, then I would have been pleased" -- agar us ne ek baar .safaa))ii kii hotii , to mujhe ;xvushii hotii

In each of these cases, the verb in the "if" clause gives much richer and more particular information, because of its use of the "complex" contrafactual: each specifies the exact kind of action that didn't happen (the first an action in progress, the second a habitual action, the third a one-shot action). In each case, this is significant information.

Usually in fact contrafactual "if-then" sentences do work like the above examples: the "if" clause often (though not always) has a complex contrafactual, while the "then" clause almost always has a simple contrafactual (as befits its doubly unreal status as a non-result of a non-cause).

A word about varnah : The useful clause-introducer varnah ("And if not, otherwise, or else; although," Platts p. 1189) can introduce two kinds of clauses: an indicative one (in any tense), or a contrafactual one. Here are some *Ghalibian examples*.

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