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  1. #1
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default an engineer was vs were here

    1)"If an engineer was here, he would have explained this to us."

    OR

    2)"If an engineer were here, he would have explained this to us."

    OR

    3)"If an engineer were here, he would explain this to us."

    1)The first part is grammatically incorrect but might be used in speech and refers to the present. The second part refers to a point in the past.

    2) and 3) The first part is grammatically correct. The second part in the second sentence refers to a point in the past,whereas in the third one to the unreal future. Is my explanation correct?

  2. #2
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: an engineer was vs were here

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    1)"If an engineer was here, he would have explained this to us."

    OR

    2)"If an engineer were here, he would have explained this to us."

    OR

    3)"If an engineer were here, he would explain this to us."

    1)The first part is grammatically incorrect but might be used in speech and refers to the present. The second part refers to a point in the past.

    2) and 3) The first part is grammatically correct. The second part in the second sentence refers to a point in the past,whereas in the third one to the unreal future. Is my explanation correct?
    NOT A TEACHER

    As I understand it:

    (1) If an engineer were here, he would explain it. Unreal. There is

    no engineer here.

    (2) If an engineer was here, he would explain it. (Same as No. l.

    Popular English use of "was" instead of the "correct" were.

    (3) If an engineer had been here, he would have explained it.

    An unreal situation in the past.

  3. #3
    jamiep is offline Member
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    Default Re: an engineer was vs were here

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    1)

    3)"If an engineer were here, he would explain this to us."
    This is probably the best one to use and is grammatically correct, although not entirely a standard conditional structure.

    Look up the "subjunctive" mood in a good grammar book.

  4. #4
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: an engineer was vs were here

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    NOT A TEACHER

    As I understand it:

    (1) If an engineer were here, he would explain it. Unreal. There is

    no engineer here.

    (2) If an engineer was here, he would explain it. (Same as No. l.

    Popular English use of "was" instead of the "correct" were.

    (3) If an engineer had been here, he would have explained it.


    An unreal situation in the past.

    What if I said "If an engineer was on the staff, he would've explained this to us." The first part would refer to the unreal present and the second( we don't have any on the staff that's why nobody explained this to us) would refer to a point in the past?
    Last edited by ostap77; 08-Oct-2010 at 09:58.

  5. #5
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: an engineer was vs were here

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    What if I said "If an engineer was on the staff, he would've explained this to us." The first part would refer to the unreal present and the second( we don't have any on the staff that's why nodovy explained this to us) would refer to a point in the past?

    NOT A TEACHER


    Great question.

    I am not qualified to answer it.

    Let's see what a teacher/moderator says.

  6. #6
    ostap77 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: an engineer was vs were here

    Quote Originally Posted by TheParser View Post
    NOT A TEACHER


    Great question.

    I am not qualified to answer it.

    Let's see what a teacher/moderator says.
    If I'm not mistaken it's called mixed condtionals?

  7. #7
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: an engineer was vs were here

    Quote Originally Posted by ostap77 View Post
    If I'm not mistaken it's called mixed condtionals?
    NOT A TEACHER

    (1) I think that you are 100% correct.

    (2) I had forgotten all about mixed conditionals.

    (3) I found these examples which seem to be similar to your example in

    their meanings:

    If I was/were rich, I would have bought it.

    (I am not currently rich, so I did not buy it.)

    If Sam spoke Russian, he would have translated it.

    (But Sam does not speak Russian, so he didn't translate it.)

    If I didn't have to work, I would have gone there.

    (But I have to work a lot. So I did not go last night.)

    ***

    So I think (think) your sentence is fine:

    If an engineer was/were here, he would have explained it.

    (But there is no engineer here. So there was nobody to explain it yesterday.)

    Thank you for reminding me about mixed conditionals.

  8. #8
    Munch's Avatar
    Munch is offline Member
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    Default Re: an engineer was vs were here

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    Not really!
    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post

    While all are structurally possible, (1) and (2) are semantically absurd, since the unreal present fact of an engineer's being here is posited as the logical precondition of a nonexistent past explanation!

    #3 is therefore the only grammatical and plausible sentence.
    (1) and (2) make sense to me and this is how I understand them. If they had an engineer with them at that moment, the engineer would have already explained everything.

    Anyway, they are all easily comprehended sentences. The meaning is clear in all three cases and they would not sound unusual to me if I heard them from a native speaker.

    The engineer might not be male, though right? You might want to use gender neutral language. A lot of broads worry their pretty little heads over that kind of stuff.

    Singular “they” anyone?


    ETA:
    Woah! Philo2009's post that I was replying to just disappeared. I swear those quotes are legitimate.
    Last edited by Munch; 08-Oct-2010 at 07:50. Reason: a post just disapeared!

  9. #9
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: an engineer was vs were here

    Quote Originally Posted by Munch View Post

    (1) and (2) make sense to me and this is how I understand them. If they had an engineer with them at that moment, the engineer would have already explained everything.
    On reflection, agreed: viewed in that way, they could make sense.

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