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  1. #1
    indonesia's Avatar
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    Default 1st or 2nd conditional?

    Hoping for a little (more) help please.

    I can't work out if this sentence is 1st or 2nd conditional:

    If we could find an alternative to landfills, it would help the environment.

    I understand that the result clause is in 2nd conditional form (would + base verb), but I'm not sure about the condition clause. Is 'could' acting as the past simple verb? or is 'find' the main verb? making it a 1st conditional clause. In which case I suppose it would be mixed

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    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: 1st or 2nd conditional?

    Quote Originally Posted by indonesia View Post
    Hoping for a little (more) help please.

    I can't work out if this sentence is 1st or 2nd conditional:

    If we could find an alternative to landfills, it would help the environment.

    I understand that the result clause is in 2nd conditional form (would + base verb), but I'm not sure about the condition clause. Is 'could' acting as the past simple verb? or is 'find' the main verb? making it a 1st conditional clause. In which case I suppose it would be mixed
    I would say the key verb here (I prefer to call it the finite verb) is "could", which is past simple, therefore the construction is 2nd conditional.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: 1st or 2nd conditional?

    thx Orangutan,

    I must admit that I was thinking along the lines of 'find' being the main verb and 'could' just acting as a modal auxiliary.

  4. #4
    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: 1st or 2nd conditional?

    Quote Originally Posted by indonesia View Post
    thx Orangutan,

    I must admit that I was thinking along the lines of 'find' being the main verb and 'could' just acting as a modal auxiliary.
    The trouble is that "main verb" is used in different ways by different people. But for questions like this it is the auxiliary that counts, as it is the bit that expresses tense.

  5. #5
    bhaisahab's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1st or 2nd conditional?

    Quote Originally Posted by indonesia View Post
    thx Orangutan,

    I must admit that I was thinking along the lines of 'find' being the main verb and 'could' just acting as a modal auxiliary.
    I would agree with your analysis.

  6. #6
    orangutan is offline Member
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    Default Re: 1st or 2nd conditional?

    "Find" is indeed the "main verb" (in many people's terminology). But it is the finite verb, in this case the auxiliary, that determines the tense of the clause. So in cases like this it is the auxiliary is the one that counts (though I was careful not to describe it as the "main verb").

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