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    #1

    Second conditional necessary when suppose a situation in the past?

    Hello, everyone.

    I don't why, but I've always presumed that when we use an if sentence to talk about things in the past, we have to use second conditional, i.e., we have to put it like Had I finished ..., I would have done ... or Had I finished ... , I would be ... .

    Based on this presumption, whenever I saw a structure like If ... didn't ... , I would automatically think it's about a hypothetical situation.

    However, I've now started to think that maybe this is not necesarrily the case.

    Say, we are talking about a past event. At the time of speaking, we have already known the outcome of it. So it doesn't matter whether we assume this event's having happened or not having happened, what we are doing is merely supposing something that hasn't really happened in the history.

    For example, we all know the Allied forces took control of Normandy in 1944. We don't presume they have done so because it is a fact and assuming a fact is a contradiction in terms. We can only suppose that the Allied forcec failed to take control of Normandy and consequently talk about its influences on the development of 20th century.

    Let's consider another situation, in which things could develop in two ways and actually developed in two ways. In this case, we are basically talking about a matter of fact and it doesn't matter whether we suppose this event happened or not.

    For example, I spend much of my spare time observing fish these days. They live in a small pond in the local library. The staff here don't seem to feed the fish and they've always been hungry. So hungry that after being away for about five weeks, I found that they had eaten all the lutas plants in the water. I started my observation in early July. They were still very small at that time. Now they have grown much bigger. I would consider it a safe bet to say that not all of the fish I saw in early July have made their way through the following two months.

    If we consider the fact that some of the fish failed to find enough food and died, and some not, I would like think it's plausible to come to the conclusion that I am allowed to say If they failed to find enough food, they would die. or If they succeeded in finding enough food, they would suivive. And in this case, it's really not necessary to say Had they failed to find enough food, they would have died. or Had they secceeded in finding enough food, they would have survived.

    Am I right in thinking so?

    Thanks

    Richard
    Last edited by cubezero3; 07-Sep-2010 at 12:14.

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    #2

    Re: Second conditional necessary when suppose a situation in the past?

    Jesus, you do write a lot! Whether you know it or not, the Grammar Police are out there: their job is to track down offenders and to summarily shoot them! So be warned! You are not allowed!

    That said:

    If they failed to find enough food, they would die. We are talking now about the summer break, so:
    If they failed to find enough food, they died.
    or If they succeeded in finding enough food, they would suivive.
    If they succeeded in finding enough food, they survived.

    And in this case, it's really not necessary to say:

    Had they failed to find enough food, they would have died. Say this about the poor little fishies that survived the neglection!

    or Had they succeeded in finding enough food, they would have survived. Say this about the poor little fishies that popped their clogs due to neglection.

    清楚了吗?

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