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  1. #1
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    Post Conditional clauses

    Hi there,

    I am listing below a number of questions on conditional clauses and the tenses used in them. I should be most grateful if you could offer me a little help in better understanding them.

    Thanks in advance

    Andrian

    Here are my questions:

    He never says a word unless he's being threatened in someway.
    My question here is why the speaker used the form "is being threatened" and not "is threatened". When I should use the first form "is threatened" and not the second "is being threatened"? Is there a certain rule to follow?

    If you drive carefully, you will have fewer accidents.

    If you drove carefully, you wouldn't have so many accidents.

    The first sentence doesn't sound like a warning to me, but rather like advice, I'd say. The second sentence uses the past tense but it is not retrospective because in conditional clauses the simple past tense-when it's used in both clauses; the main and condition clause-usually refers to either the unreal present or the unreal future but never to the past.
    To say that the second sentence is retrospective, then it should be:

    If you had driven carefully, you wouldn't have had so many accidents.

    Which means you didn't drive carefully at some time in the past and as a result you had so many accidents.

    I think the speaker in the second sentence " If you drove carefully, you wouldn't have so many accidents" is referring to unreal or imaginary condition in the present (you don't drive carefully so you do have so many accidents, but if you drove carefully, you wouldn't have so many accidents.

    The trouble I am having with unreal/hypothetical conditionals is that sometimes I can't tell whether the sentence refers to a present/future real condition or to a present/future unreal condition. Is it a matter of the speaker's choice and his/her degree of certainty about the possibility of a situation-if it is likely or unlikely to happen?

    If you help me now, you are a true friend.

    If you helped me, you would be a true friend.

    The first sentence makes a complete sense to me. It suggests that the speaker is somewhat sure that his/her friend is gonna help. Am I right there? The second sentence, however, indicates that the speaker doubts that his/her friend will lend a hand.



    If they didn't show him the way, he will not find the right office.

    If they don't show him the way, he will not find the right office.

    If they didn't show him the way, he wouldn't find the right office.

    The first sentence sounds fine (the guy has already asked for directions, but he will not find the right office unless the people he has asked them for directions have already showed him the way. Is my interpretation correct?

    Usually if the condition clause (that contains the "if") is in the simple past tense, the main clause cannot be in the future tense. However, in the first sentence tenses; simple past and future are mixed up. Is this grammatical? Under which conditions can we mix up tenses like in the first sentence?

    The second sentence is predictive. The speaker is certain that the guy will not find the office (as long as they don't show him the way, he definitely won't find the right office). Predictive sentences usually refer to the real future (events and situations that are possible and likely to happen). Various forms of the present tense can be used in the condition clause and different forms of the future tense can be used in the main clause. I am right?

    The third sentence is also predictive but more hypothetical (less possible and unlikely to happen). The speaker in this sentence is less certain whether the guy may find the right office (I don't think he is likely to find the office). My question here is about the tense reference. Is the speaker referring to the unreal present or to the unreal future? Again, how can I tell?


    If it rains tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.

    If it should rain tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.

    If it is raining tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.

    The first and the third sentences sound perfectly correct to me. Both suggest the possibility of raining tomorrow. The third, however, implies that it is less likely to rain tomorrow but if it happens to rain, then be sure to close the windows. The use of "should" implies that something is probable, 85% likely to happen. "rains" and "is raining" suggest a higher possibility of raining, 95-100% likely to happen. Am I right?

    Is the use of "should" above restricted to formal context? Is it likely to occur in everyday conversational conditionals?


    If the truth is known, public opinion will change.

    If the truth were known, public opinion would change.

    The speaker in the first sentence is somewhat sure that if the truth is revealed, then public opinion will change whereas the speaker in the second sentence sounds less certain (if the truth were to be known-which I don't think would happen, then public opinion would probably change).

    My question is again about the tense reference. Do both sentences 1&2 refer to the present unreal or to the future unreal? How can I tell if a predictive or hypothetical statement refers to the real/unreal present or future? Any specific grammatical rules?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Conditional clauses



    He never says a word unless he's being threatened in someway.
    My question here is why the speaker used the form "is being threatened" and not "is threatened". When I should use the first form "is threatened" and not the second "is being threatened"? Is there a certain rule to follow?

    You could use 'is threatened'. the effect of the progressive form, IMO, is to focus sharply on the particular circustances- so it adds more emphasis.
    .

    The trouble I am having with unreal/hypothetical conditionals is that sometimes I can't tell whether the sentence refers to a present/future real condition or to a present/future unreal condition. Is it a matter of the speaker's choice and his/her degree of certainty about the possibility of a situation-if it is likely or unlikely to happen?

    Largely, yes- the British lottery was ordered to use unreal conditionals (It could be you) because a court determined that the real was unrealistic, but an optimist could buy a ticket and say 'if I win'.

    If you help me now, you are a true friend.

    If you helped me, you would be a true friend.

    The first sentence makes a complete sense to me. It suggests that the speaker is somewhat sure that his/her friend is gonna help. Am I right there? The second sentence, however, indicates that the speaker doubts that his/her friend will lend a hand.

    The second could always be seen as less hard sell- giving the friend the choice.



    If they didn't show him the way, he will not find the right office.

    If they don't show him the way, he will not find the right office.

    If they didn't show him the way, he wouldn't find the right office.

    The first sentence sounds fine (the guy has already asked for directions, but he will not find the right office unless the people he has asked them for directions have already showed him the way. Is my interpretation correct?

    I'd say the first is wrong.


    The third sentence is also predictive but more hypothetical (less possible and unlikely to happen). The speaker in this sentence is less certain whether the guy may find the right office (I don't think he is likely to find the office). My question here is about the tense reference. Is the speaker referring to the unreal present or to the unreal future? Again, how can I tell?

    Context


    If it rains tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.

    If it should rain tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.

    If it is raining tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.



    Is the use of "should" above restricted to formal context? Is it likely to occur in everyday conversational conditionals?
    It occurs in everday British conversation and, IMO, implies a lower possibility- it's midway between the first and second.


    If the truth is known, public opinion will change.

    If the truth were known, public opinion would change.

    The speaker in the first sentence is somewhat sure that if the truth is revealed, then public opinion will change whereas the speaker in the second sentence sounds less certain (if the truth were to be known-which I don't think would happen, then public opinion would probably change).

    My question is again about the tense reference. Do both sentences 1&2 refer to the present unreal or to the future unreal? How can I tell if a predictive or hypothetical statement refers to the real/unreal present or future? Any specific grammatical rules?

    The first refers to a possible future. The second seems to me to be looking at an unreal present- the verb 'know' suugests the current situatioon. If it were about the future, it'd be more likely to be something like 'if the truth were to come out'.

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