# Thread: He talks as if he were a doctor.

1. ## He talks as if he were a doctor.

If context is vital to determine whether an as-if clause means counfactual things or uncertain things, is the following proper examples? Depending on the context, can you determine what as-if means?

ex1)Uncertainty
At the party : That guy over there looks very intelligent, He's got broad knowledge of medicine and other areas as well, but I don't know what he does. He talks as if he were a doctor......

ex2)Counterfactual
My friend Jim is a swindler, He always lies to girls to allure them, and the best weapon he uses is pretending to be a doctor making lots of money. So whenever he meets with girls, he talks as if he were a doctor....
Last edited by keannu; 31-Dec-2011 at 14:44.

2. ## Re: He talks as if he were a doctor.

Originally Posted by keannu
Depending on the context, can you determine what 'as-if' means?
You have provided the clear context yourself, in red.

ex1)Uncertainty
At the party : That guy over there looks very intelligent, He's got broad knowledge of medicine and other areas as well, but I don't know what he does. He talks as if he were a doctor......

ex2)Counterfactual
My friend Jim is a swindler, He always lies to girls to allure them, and the best weapon he uses is pretending to be a doctor making lots of money. So whenever he meets with girls, he talks as if he were a doctor....
5

3. ## Re: He talks as if he were a doctor.

Originally Posted by 5jj
5
You seem to have said my examples worked. Now I'd like to explain to my students that only context can determine the meaning of "as-if" like in the examples I made up. Can I?

But for "as if present verb"
ex1)Uncertainty
At the party : That guy over there looks very intelligent, He's got broad knowledge of medicine and other areas as well, but I don't know what he does. He talks as if he is a doctor......

ex2)Counterfactual
My friend Jim is a swindler, He always lies to girls to allure them, and the best weapon he uses is pretending to be a doctor making lots of money. So whenever he meets with girls, he talks as if he is a doctor....

Do these also work? The second "he is" doesn't seem to work, but after carefully reading 5jj's explanation last year, the second also seems to work if clear context is given.

4. ## Re: He talks as if he were a doctor.

keannu, we went through this a year ago.

I said then:

"All I can say is than in my opinion, the use of neither 'is' nor 'were' explicitly tells us whether he actually is the boss.

As I said in a previous post, "The reality of the main clause does not depend on that of an
as-if-clause". The use of 'as if' in itself casts doubts on the (f)actuality of what follows. This is perhaps why usage here is less fixed than with conditional sentences. It is not possible to be 100% clear about a situation that is presented as unclear.

He is acting as the boss
. - He is not the boss, but he has taken on the boss's role.
He is acting like the boss. -His behaviour is similar to that of the boss.
If he is the boss, then he will know the answer. - There is a possibility that he is the boss.
If he were the boss, he would know the answer. - It is unlikely, or not true, (depending on the context) that he is the boss.

He acts as if he is/was/were the boss
. - We do not know for certain whether he is the boss.

I think that, for some people, 'is' in that last sentence' conveys more of an idea that he is the boss, and that 'was/were' convey more of an idea that he is not the boss. However, I also feel that these ideas would not be conveyed to some people.
[...]

I must stress that I have used 'I feel', 'I think', 'I suspect' and 'in my opinion'. Neither my grammar books nor the corpora have given a clear answer. And, I have to say, the more I think about it, the less certain I become of even what I say myself
."

A year later, the situation is the same.

5. ## Re: He talks as if he were a doctor.

Not being a native speaker, the underlined part is the hardest to understand for me. It seems to say "as-if clause(as if he were a boss" doesn't affect the main clause(He acts), but hard for me.
Anyway, I had the feeling "were/is" both don't give us any clear fact, so we should judge from the context and that's why I made up the examples. Generalization is hard to understand for me. Whenever you gave me examples, it was like Jesus' teachings so clear-cut to understand.

As I said in a previous post, "The reality of the main clause does not depend on that of an as-if-clause". The use of 'as if' in itself casts doubts on the (f)actuality of what follows. This is perhaps why usage here is less fixed than with conditional sentences. It is not possible to be 100% clear about a situation that is presented as unclear

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## Re: He talks as if he were a doctor.

(1) He talks as if he is a doctor.
REFERENCE: present
IMPLICATION: "He may or may not be a doctor. I consider both equally possible."

(2) He talked as if he was a doctor.
REFERENCE: past
IMPLICATION: "He may or may not have been a doctor (at the time in question). I consider both equally possible."

(3) He talks as if he were a doctor. (Or, esp. BrE, '...was...')
REFERENCE: present
IMPLICATION: "He may or may not be a doctor but, on balance, I consider it more likely that he is not."

(4) He talked as if he had been a doctor.
REFERENCE: past
IMPLICATION: "He may or may not have been a doctor (at the time in question) but, on balance, I consider it more likely that he was not."

N.B. To avoid the temporal ambiguity of the past perfect here - i.e. to make clear that it refers counterfactually to the time past time in question and not declaratively to a more remote anterior past time - many speakers will substitute 'were' for 'had been'.

7. ## Re: He talks as if he were a doctor.

Originally Posted by keannu
You seem to have said my examples worked. Now I'd like to explain to my students that only context can determine the meaning of "as-if" like in the examples I made up. Can I?
Yes.
This also applies to "as though".

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