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  1. #1
    Fátima Brandão Guest

    Question Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    Could you help me clearing this doubt?

    I had the following sentence to rewrite as an If-clause:;

    - Mary spent many years studying English, so she speaks English fluently.
    I rewrote it like that:
    - If Mary hadnīt spent so many years studying English, she wouldn't speak English fluently.
    It seemed to me that this would be the logical way to rephrase but a friend of mine insists on the use of the Past Simple in the If-clause.

    My doubt is if I could rewrite it like: If I didn't spend so many years studying english, I wouldn't speak English fluently.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    Here's a great tutorial on conditionals. See 16.

    http://www.uazone.org/friends/esl4rus/conditional.html

  3. #3
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    Quote Originally Posted by Fátima Brandão
    Could you help me clearing this doubt?

    I had the following sentence to rewrite as an If-clause:;

    - Mary spent many years studying English, so she speaks English fluently.
    I rewrote it like that:
    - If Mary hadnīt spent so many years studying English, she wouldn't speak English fluently.
    It seemed to me that this would be the logical way to rephrase but a friend of mine insists on the use of the Past Simple in the If-clause.

    My doubt is if I could rewrite it like: If I didn't spend so many years studying english, I wouldn't speak English fluently.
    Yours is the good one. Trust it.

  4. #4
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    Smile Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause


    Grammatically speaking, you cannot use "Simple Past" tense in conditional sentences to refer to "Past Time."
    In other words, the inclusion of a simple-past verb in the subordinate clause of conditional sentences normally implies an unreal reference to "The Present Time."
    So far as my knowledge of English grammar in concerned, your sentence is best structured as:
    "If I hadn't spent so many years studing English, I wouldn't be able to speak English fluently.

  5. #5
    M56 Guest

    Default Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    Quote Originally Posted by omidonline
    Grammatically speaking, you cannot use "Simple Past" tense in conditional sentences to refer to "Past Time."
    In other words, the inclusion of a simple-past verb in the subordinate clause of conditional sentences normally implies an unreal reference to "The Present Time."
    So far as my knowledge of English grammar in concerned, your sentence is best structured as:
    "If I hadn't spent so many years studing English, I wouldn't be able to speak English fluently.

    Interesting. Would you then say that these are grammatically unsuitable?

    Mary speaks English fluently.

    Yes, she does. It's because she studied for many years.


    IYO, do I need to add "is able to speak" to both of those?

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    Default Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    Quote Originally Posted by M56
    Interesting. Would you then say that these are grammatically unsuitable?

    Mary speaks English fluently.

    Yes, she does. It's because she studied for many years.


    IYO, do I need to add "is able to speak" to both of those?
    No, you don't need to do such a thing at all.

    The reason why I added "be able to" to that sentence was that, beyond a linguistic context, the idea of "ability" is inherently present in "If I hadn't studied English for many years, I wouldn't speak English fluently."
    To put it differently, the deep structure of this sentence, in my view of it, is as follows:
    "I spent many years studying English and that brought to me the ability to speak English fluently."
    or
    "My current ability to speak English fluently stems from the very fact that I studied English for many years."
    In much of a logical approach, "spending some time studying English" does not lead to "speaking English fluently" but, rather, to "the ability to speak English fluently."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    M56, please take the time and effort to read each post carefully. I draw your attention to the underlined portion of omidonline's post:
    Quote Originally Posted by =omidonline
    Grammatically speaking, you cannot use "Simple Past" tense in conditional sentences to refer to "Past Time."
    The examples you've so readily provided are not conditional sentences.
    Quote Originally Posted by M56
    Would you then say that these are grammatically unsuitable?

    Mary speaks English fluently.

    Yes, she does. It's because she studied for many years.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    Quote Originally Posted by omidonline
    Grammatically speaking, you cannot use "Simple Past" tense in conditional sentences to refer to "Past Time."
    There are some exceptions to that, IMO:

    • If I were you, I wouldn't have done that.
    • If I had been you, I wouldn't have done that.

    Of the two, the first sounds more logical a sentence to me, though it could easily be rewritten to avoid the problem.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    I agree.

    Subjunctive "were" sounds better than present perfect "have been". But . . . how are they exceptions?

    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    There are some exceptions to that, IMO:
    • If I were you, I wouldn't have done that.
    • If I had been you, I wouldn't have done that.
    Of the two, the first sounds more logical a sentence to me, though it could easily be rewritten to avoid the problem.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Doubt in the use of Past Perfect or Simple past in an If-clause

    You are right. Thanks for the contribution you made.
    Language is not mathematics, we all know that. There's no such thing as a fixed set of rules governing the grammar a language, and English is no exception.
    On making that statement, GENERALITY was what I had in mind.

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