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There is a similar question that doesn't fully cover what I am asking, so I do ask nevertheless.

If I tell a story in the past and, at some point, want to talk about what used to be the (expected) future at that point, how do I do that? As a German speaker, I'd employ conjunctive mood, so I'd literally say something like

We arrived at the port. The next two weeks, we would be sailing on our boat.

(actually I don't know if that's correct English, but that's not my question here; at least, it reflects what happens in German)

The sentence does not imply that this is what necessarily happened later—only what we expected from the future at the time we arrived at the port.

How can I translate this aspect into Russian? Something like

Мы прибыли к порту. Следующими двумя неделями, мы плыли на нашей яхте.

sounds too definite for me, but mayme it doesn't for Russian ears?

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The English Future-in-the-Past tenses are rendered as the Russian Future tenses.

The English tenses have absolute meaning:
• the Past tenses tell about the past,
• Future-in-the-Past tenses tell about what would be after an event in the past,
• the Future tenses tell about what will be after now.

As you can see, there are two main points on the timeline, past and now, and there are two sets of tenses for what is after each of those main points.

Russian tenses work differently. The Russian tenses have relative meaning. “Relative” means ‘connected to or depending on something else’. This something else is usually the moment of speech, but in the discourse this focus can be shifted to a moment in the past or in the future:
• The Russian Past tense tells about what was before the focus point,
• The Russian Present tense tells about what was at the same time as the focus point,
• The Russian Future tenses tell about what will/would be after the focus point.

The focus point is defined from the context of each speech act, from the situation and from what is relevant in the situation given. In a complex sentence, the predicate of the main clause defines the focus point:

He said he would read that book. — Он сказал, что почитает эту книгу.

In English, ‘said’ is past, ‘would read’ is what follows that past. In Russian, ‘сказал’ is past, too, and it is the focus point, ‘почитает’ is future, what follows the focus point.

As for your example with the boat, let me propose a situation in which that could be used. It can well be written on a photo of friends standing in the port next to a sailboat. For a speaker of Russian, it is important what the focus point is. In that situation, the focus point is the moment shown in the photo, when the friends are in the port. They arrived before that, and they will sail after that, so Russian uses the Past tense for the former and the future tense for the latter:

Мы прибыли в порт. Следующие две недели мы будем плавать на лодке.

In most cases the focus point is just now, so the Russian past tense is about the past and the Future tense is about future. But when the focus point is shifted from now, so the meaning of the tenses is shifted. Anyhow, all the Future-in-the-Past tenses are rendered as the Russian Future tenses.

It would be much easier to answer your question if you were more sure if that sample English sentence is exactly what you mean or if you provided at least some context, described the situation.

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  • I have read on English future-in-the-past on Cambridge Dictionary. It seems that it works as I expected, so my example is what I mean. Petr's example (но прошедший шторм…) is precisely what I meant: in the past, there was an expectation of some future, that isn't necessarily what happened after.
    – Bubaya
    Sep 28 at 13:23
  • @Bubaya - English whould has several meanings, what I described above is about Future-in-the-Past, as you requested it. For Future-in-the-Past it's irrelevant if the action actually happened or not.
    – Yellow Sky
    Sep 28 at 13:28
  • Sure: that's why I said that it is not necessarily what happened after.
    – Bubaya
    Sep 28 at 13:47
  • "Мы прибыли в порт. Следующие две недели мы будем плавать на лодке." - in fact, this sounds strange to me. By itself the phrase looks rather norm, but I can't imagine it in a bigger context. Firstly, the author would obviously go on telling about other events that followed, and it will be in past tense (as in a normal narration), but then this single present-tense sentence would stand out too much...
    – Petr
    Sep 29 at 16:19
  • And secondly, if the yacht trip did not actually happen (as in my storm example), you simple can not attach this information to your sentence. "Мы прибыли в порт. Следующие две недели мы будем плавать на лодке, но из-за прошедшего шторма мы не смогли выйти в море и вернулись домой" — that's absolute nonsense. Your phrase with present seems more appropriate for a direct speech: "Мы прибыли в порт. Следующие две недели мы будем плавать на лодке, думал я"; in some cases this "думал я" may be omitted, but still implied, and that's not what OP meant.
    – Petr
    Sep 29 at 16:21
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There is no exact translation, so you should use some other phrasing that will have roughly same meaning, depending on the context.

The simplest approach would be to use a verb stating your intent, such as "планировать" (to plan), "собираться" (to be going to), etc:

Мы прибыли в порт. Следующие две недели мы планировали плавать на яхте.

The verb itself is in the past, but its meaning clearly refers to the "future at that point".

(Note that a correct phrase is "в порт", not "к порту". Also "плавать", when used together with "две недели" sounds slightly unnatural to me; I would say "провести на яхте" or "провести в плавании на яхте" or something like this, because simple "плавать" is for a shorter activity; but obviously it is not the point of your question.)

Also you can use a particle "бы":

Мы прибыли в порт. Следующие две недели мы бы плавали на яхте.

but this implies that at this point you already knew that you would not be sailing, e.g.

Мы прибыли в порт. Следующие две недели мы бы плавали на яхте, но прошедший шторм сделал выход в море невозможным.


Also, you can always say

Мы прибыли в порт. Следующие две недели мы плавали на яхте.

but this would be plain "We arrived at the port. The next two weeks, we were sailing on our boat." That is, a straight sequence of events in past.

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    Returning to the fact that this "will" and "would" initially was - one could say: мы желали бы плавать на яхте or мы изволили бы плавать на яхте ... :> of course, "изволить" has archaic and rather impudent (in first person) connotations. :> Sep 28 at 12:42

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