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Let us compare the following two sentences:

(1) If I had enough money with me, I would order shark fin soup.

(2) If I had had enough money with me, I would have ordered shark fin soup.

Both conditionals are hypothetical, but there is a principal difference between them: The first sentence is an open hypothetical conditional statement and can be said, for example, in a restaurant, whilst the second sentence is about an unfulfilled past situation and can be said, for example, after visiting a restaurant, when it is already too late to order the soup.

The standard Russian grammatical construction for hypothetical statements makes no distinction between Cases (1) and (2):

(3) Если бы у меня было с собой достаточно денег, я бы заказала суп из акульих плавников.

I am curious whether there is an elegant universal solution in Russian to make it clear that the statement is about an unfulfilled past situation.

Of course, when you use the standard construction like in Sentence (3), the meaning is often already clear from the context, and when it is not, it is often possible to use a simple lexical solution tailored to the context. For example, if I am talking about a past resturant visit and need to say Sentence (2) in Russian, I can say as follows:

(4) Если бы тогда у меня было с собой достаточно денег, я бы там заказала суп из акульих плавников.

But what solution should I use if I want to tell a Russian friend of mine the following thing:

(5) If you had had invited me, I would have visited you in Russia.

The message is that he had an opportunity to get visited by me. He only needed to invite me, but now it is too late to do so, because, for example, I am simply not interested anymore. If I translate Sentence (5) to Russian by using the standard Russian grammatical construction for hypothetical statements, I will get this:

(6) Если бы ты меня пригласил, я бы приехала к тебе в гости в Россию.

This translation, unless supplemented by additional words, is wrong, because my friend will think that he still has on opportunity to get visited by me. He will see Sentence (6) as a suggestion to invite me now. But this is not the intended meaning. It is too late to invite me. The opportunity has gone.

And I do not know how I can elegantly but precisely translate Sentence (5) to Russian. I think that inserting тогда after бы in both parts of Sentence (6) will make my conversation partner puzzled unless he and I are explicitly talking about a specific moment or a time period to which he can connect the word тогда. I simply want to say that he had an opportunity in an unspecified time period in the past.

The specific question of my post is this: How would you precisely translate Sentence (5) as well as Text (7) shown below, making it clear that they are about unfulfilled past situations?

(7) If that company had had sugar to offer us as a substitute for corn, what praises should we have heard the base newspapers bestow upon our "Empire in the East!" The "Country Gentlemen" would not have moved a tongue. If they had dared to do it, the thunder from Leadenhall street would soon have reduced them to silence.

I took Text (7) from a historic document, because I want to learn how I can elegantly but precisely translate series of conditionals of this kind in real texts, where it is hard to use simple lexical solutions applicable to single short everyday phrases.

Of course, I want the translations to exactly convey the precise meaning of the originals, not make any assumptions about the context, and not imply anything not implied by the originals. Imagine you are a spy who intercepted the above messages not knowing the context and has to translate them to Russian for his boss as precisely as possible because any imprecision may lead to wrong political decisions.

And, of course, general remarks about forming conditional sentences about unfulfilled past situations in Russian are also very welcome.

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    As a native speaker I really don't mind to help people who learn Russian but your questions are so big that I can't even force myself to read 1/4 of them.. If you can summarize your thoughts and make one more short and laconic question with precise issue I will glad to try to answer – turik97 May 16 '19 at 13:04
  • @turik97 The question is very simple: How would you translate Sentence (5) and Text (7) to Russian? The translations have to be precise and, in particular, make clear that the conditional statements are about unfulfilled past situations rather than the current state of things. – Mitsuko May 16 '19 at 13:07
  • @turik97 Thanks for the comment, I will try to write my posts more concisely. I myself read very quickly and somehow assumed that most users are the same, but now I see that it may be beneficial to write short questions. – Mitsuko May 16 '19 at 13:12
  • @turik97 On the other hand, once I wrote a short question (russian.stackexchange.com/questions/19485) and got heavily criticized for that. Then I updated my question by expanding it a lot (see the P.S. section of that post), and people very positively reacted to that. – Mitsuko May 16 '19 at 13:18
  • Sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable but it's okay, I didn't mean anything about your question - it's me who is lazy – turik97 May 16 '19 at 13:28
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I would say something like:

(5) Если бы ты раньше меня пригласил, я бы приехала к тебе в гости в Россию. (А сейчас [уже] не могу.)

Or, indicating past tense more clearly:

(5) Если бы ты раньше меня пригласил, я бы ещё тогда приехала к тебе в гости в Россию.

As for (7), the context is not entirely clear to me, but I would write something like

(7) Если бы у этой компании в своё время был сахар как замена кукурузе, какая похвала была бы ниспослана газетами на «Империю Востока»! «Помещики» того времени и ртом бы не шевельнули. Попытались бы, и гром с Лиденхол-стрит в тот же момент заставил бы их притихнуть.

«В своё время» may help with phrases like this. I've also used «в тот же момент» to indicate that the second action is in the same time frame as the first one.

I am honestly not sure that you really need to indicate past tense in every sentence. If anything, it sounds redundant to me.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Quassnoi May 16 '19 at 17:44
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He will see Sentence (6) as a suggestion to invite me now. But this is not the intended meaning. It is too late to invite me. The opportunity has gone.

The real problem is that whatever words you choose, he might think that the opportunity is still open. (And I believe it's not so specific to Russian language). So I wouldn't even bother translating: "Если бы ты меня приглашал, я бы приехала к тебе в гости в Россию". This sentence is clearly about "unfulfilled past", but at the same time everyone will buy it as a hint that he should try now.

The only universal tool here is an intonation. You may choose between different words, such as: "тогда", "раньше", "в тот раз", etc. But the real point is the right stress.

If that company had had sugar to offer us as a substitute for corn, what praises should we have heard the base newspapers bestow upon our "Empire in the East!" The "Country Gentlemen" would not have moved a tongue. If they had dared to do it, the thunder from Leadenhall street would soon have reduced them to silence.

Well, an attempt to translate such sentence is the same thing as попасть пальцем в небо, but I'll try my best:

Будь у этой компании сахар, чтобы предложить его нам вместо кукурузы, какие бы похвалы, расточаемые нашей "Империи на Востоке", услышали мы от главных газет! "Сельские джентльмены" и рта бы не посмели открыть. А когда бы открыли, громы с Лиденхолл-стрит скоро бы заставили их умолкнуть.

  • >>The real problem is that whatever words you choose, he might think that the opportunity is still open<< I cannot agree, because (as you can see in the comments under another answer) we found a correct solution for Sentence (5): "В свое время я бы приехала к тебе в Россию, если бы ты меня пригласил." Isn't this solution perfect? – Mitsuko May 16 '19 at 17:32
  • >>The only universal tool here is an intonation.<< There is no intonation in written texts. – Mitsuko May 16 '19 at 17:34
  • >>Будь у этой компании сахар, чтобы предложить его нам вместо кукурузы, какие бы похвалы, расточаемые нашей "Империи на Востоке", услышали мы от главных газет! << How does this translation make clear that you are talking about the past and not about the present/future? – Mitsuko May 16 '19 at 17:37
  • @Mitsuko When I say "Будь у этой компании сахар", I mean "If they had had sugar then it should have been this way; but if they have... well, who knows?" So it's not too far from "had had". In principle, it's possible to put in some explanatory words, such as "Будь у этой компании в своё время сахар...", but no word is universal by nature. The phrase "at some moment" is used to build up a context, and not "to patch" syntax. – Matt May 17 '19 at 4:57
  • И по стилю, и по содержанию, перевод Matt-а фантастически точен. По крайней мере, мне было сразу ясно, что в переводе речь идёт об упущенной возможности - и это при том, что я сначала прочитал перевод, а лишь потом - цитату в конце длиннейшего вопроса. – ゑ01 Sep 20 '20 at 13:23
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I translated this as you asked, and here it is. Seventh sentence actually was not so easy because you should provide exact sense and tone so if I did it not perfectly - sorry in advance (but in general I think it's right).

(5) If you had had invited me, I would have visited you in Russia.

  • Если бы ты пригласил(а) меня, я бы приехал(а) к тебе в Россию.

(7) If that company had had sugar to offer us as a substitute for corn, what praises should we have heard the base newspapers bestow upon our "Empire in the East!" The "Country Gentlemen" would not have moved a tongue. If they had dared to do it, the thunder from Leadenhall street would soon have reduced them to silence.

  • Если бы у той компании был бы сахар чтобы предложить нам его в виде замены для кукурузы, какую похвалу мы бы услышали в популярных газетах о нашей "Империи на Востоке". "Джентельмены Страны" даже не пошевелили бы языком. А если бы они осмелились на это - недовольство со стороны "Лиденхолл" заставило бы их притихнуть.
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Quassnoi May 16 '19 at 17:44
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  1. In regard to the original question "I am curious whether there is an elegant universal solution in Russian to make it clear that the statement is about an unfulfilled past situation.", here are two short phrases that could precede the letter:

Сейчас это всё в далёком прошлом, и возвращаться к этой истории у меня нет ни времени, ни желания. Я воспроизведу тогдашний ход событий только для того, чтобы расставить все точки над i.*

* 「または、シ」

  1. Trying to further improve on the already perfect translation of Matt:

Будь у этой компании сахар, чтобы предложить его нам взамест кукурузы, каких похвал в адрес нашей "Империи на Востоке" удостоились бы мы от главных газет! "Сельские джентльмены" и рта бы не посмели открыть. Случись им что-либо сказать, сразу же прозвучал бы гром с Лиденхолл-стрит, и все глотки были бы заткнуты.

  1. In regard to the request of @Mitsuko re: " ... an elegant translation that makes it abundantly clear that the opportunity is missed and that the both hypothetical actions (the one in the dependent clause and the one in the main clause) are in the past.":

Ты не пригласила меня, и навсегда упустила возможность моего приезда.

Смысл: "Ты не пригласила меня раньше. Тогда я ещё, может быть, к тебе бы и приехала, а потом - уже наверняка нет.

Note, that containing the negative response strictly to the past opens the door for a future positive response. Hence, if you want to avoid an impression of a possible future positive response, you need to make the negative response eternal 'навсегда = forever'.

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