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  1. #1
    Yura Reiri is offline Junior Member
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    Default What if + past form of the verb?

    Is it really rule for the ' What if ' to be followed by the past form of the verb?

    Example:

    What if I found him?

    Can't it be 'What if I find him' since I'm talking at the present moment?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: What if + past form of the verb?

    Quote Originally Posted by Yura Reiri View Post
    Is it really rule for the ' What if ' to be followed by the past form of the verb?

    Example:

    What if I found him?

    Can't it be 'What if I find him' since I'm talking at the present moment?

    Thank you.
    No, it's not a rule. Yes, you can say, "What if I find him?".

  3. #3
    Yura Reiri is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: What if + past form of the verb?

    Oh. Thank you. That question has bugged me for ages because every time I read something containing that 'What if', it's always followed by the past tense when I could've used the present tense since I don't think they meant it to be in the past.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: What if + past form of the verb?

    The fact that they're using the past tense does not necessarily mean they are referring to past time, though it can. If you use the present tense, you think there's a good chance of finding him and the past when you think it's unlikely.
    Last edited by Tdol; 11-Mar-2012 at 13:24.

  5. #5
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: What if + past form of the verb?

    You will hear "What if I go there now?" and "What if I went there now?" and "What if I were to go there now?"

  6. #6
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: What if + past form of the verb?

    I see the use of the past tense here as being more conditional than the present tense.

    "What if I found him? Would you be grateful?"
    "What if I find him? Will you be grateful?"

    Of course, this is a parallel structure to, "If I found him, would you be grateful," etc.

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