# Thread: If clauses with conjunction

1. ## If clauses with conjunction

Hi,

Which of the two is correct?

a).
If I had traveled by ship to England and then flown to China, I would've taken about a month to reach Beijing.

b).
If I had traveled by ship to England and then flew to China, I would've taken about a month to reach Beijing.

Thank you

2. ## Re: If clauses with conjunction

Originally Posted by RobertT
Hi,

Which of the two is correct?

a).
If I had traveled by ship to England and then flown to China, I would've taken about a month to reach Beijing.

b).
If I had traveled by ship to England and then flew to China, I would've taken about a month to reach Beijing.

Thank you
I like the concord in a).

3. ## Re: If clauses with conjunction

Originally Posted by lauralie2
I like the concord in a).
Me too and I think it is correct and (b) is wrong.

My reason is that, pluperfect subjunctive is used to describe imaginary condition in the past and therefore, "had flown" should be correct in the context of my example even when a conjunction is used. However, I'd like to be sure. So I'm hoping that someone could explain to me whether it is correct or not.

4. ## Re: If clauses with conjunction

I agree with lauralie2, as I usually do.

However, as so often with hypothetical and counterfactual utterances there are a number of possible, if unlikely situations. I would not recommend that what follows is presented to students in an initial overview of conditional utterances. However (my favourite word), teachers should be aware that this is a possible utterance. I have added context.

If I had travelled by ship to England (at some time in the past) and then flew to China (at some time in the future), I would've taken about a month to reach Beijing (by the time of my future arrival).

It is even just about possible with:

If I had travelled by ship to England
(before some future time) and then flew to China (after that future time), I would've taken about a month to reach Beijing (by the [later] future time of my arrival.

The big problem for teachers is that most of us know the 'rules'. These 'rules' are based on what grammarians have observed to happen. If we hear or see something that does not follow them, we tend to assume that it is incorrect.

Until recently the work of observation involved collecting examples from (mostly written) sources. Recent developments in the use of computers to sift through vast corpora of examples have made current 'rules' more reliable, but written data are still more accessible to researchers than oral. I would guess that more words are uttered by native speakers in the world in a single day than have been collected in all the corpora to date.A lot of things are being said and accepted that aren't being recorded.

The rules are very useful to us in helping our students acquire a sound command of English, but, as I wrote (or have written) on another thread, we should be wary of dismissing as incorrect something that a student may hear next day uttered by an educated speaker. Or, what is worse, the student may hear us utter it.

5. ## Re: If clauses with conjunction

Originally Posted by RobertT
Me too and I think it is correct and (b) is wrong.

My reason is that, past pluperfect subjunctive is used to describe imaginary condition in the past and therefore, "had flown" should be correct in the context of my example even when a conjunction is used. However, I'd like to be sure. So I'm hoping that someone could explain to me whether it is correct or not.
I agree that this form is often used to describe hypothetical/counterfactual conditions in the past, but I'd like to make two points.

1. Verb forms with had + 3rd form (past participle) in English. are usually referred to as the past perfect. Equivalent forms in other languages are sometimes referred to as pluperfect. There is no past pluperfect, at least not in English.

2. This form is identical in English to the factual (indicative) form, as seen in: He didn't know when he talked about his cruises that I had travelled to England by ship before he was born. Most writers do not therefore refer to the form used in hypothetical/counterfactual constructions as subjunctive. Indeed, many writers now consider that there is no subjunctive form in the English of most speakers, except in a few fossilised phrases.

6. ## Re: If clauses with conjunction

Originally Posted by fivejedjon
I agree that this form is often used to describe hypothetical/counterfactual conditions in the past, but I'd like to make two points.

1. Verb forms with had + 3rd form (past participle) in English. are usually referred to as the past perfect. Equivalent forms in other languages are sometimes referred to as pluperfect. There is no past pluperfect, at least not in English.

2. This form is identical in English to the factual (indicative) form, as seen in: He didn't know when he talked about his cruises that I had travelled to England by ship before he was born. Most writers do not therefore refer to the form used in hypothetical/counterfactual constructions as subjunctive. Indeed, many writers now consider that there is no subjunctive form in the English of most speakers, except in a few fossilised phrases.
I guess, I should have made it clear in the OP that my intention was to describe a completely imaginary situation that I had never done before.

Which means only sentence (a) should be correct and sentence (b) is still wrong because "would have" is subjunctive in nature. Whereas, if I rewrite sentence (b) into:

If I had traveled by ship to England and then flew to China, I would usually take about a month to reach Beijing.

Then, this sentence is indicative and therefore correct.

I like the idea of thinking English as a big "tree structure" with its moods - indicative, subjunctive and imperative - at the top of the tree. It makes sense of English and thus easier to understand and speak.

7. ## Re: If clauses with conjunction

Also, what I meant about "past pluperfect" was indeed the pluperfect subjunctive. I didn't remember it right when I was typing the post... sorry .

8. ## Re: If clauses with conjunction

Originally Posted by RobertT
I guess, I should have made it clear in the OP that my intention was to describe a completely imaginary situation that I had never done before.

Which means only sentence (a) should be correct
in the case of a past hypothetical/counterfactual situation, (a) is indeed acceptable and (b) not
and sentence (b) is still wrong because "would have" is subjunctive in nature
Try to forget the word subjunctive when thinking about English. It really doesn't help.
Whereas, if I rewrite sentence (b) into:

If I had traveled by ship to England and then flew to China, I would usually take about a month to reach Beijing.

Then, this sentence is indicative and therefore correct.
Yes, if you are saying "On those occasions when, after travelling by ship to England, I flew to China, then the usual duration of the trip to Beijing was about a month". You are using would to talk about a past habitual action.

I like the idea of thinking English as a big "tree structure" with its moods - indicative, subjunctive and imperative - at the top of the tree. It makes sense of English and thus easier to understand and speak.
If it works for you, good. However, as the subjunctive is rare or non-existent, and the imperative is rarely treated as a mood, I would not find it helpful.

9. ## Re: If clauses with conjunction

Contrary to me, in a lot of cases I find that by using modal verbs, which people do so frequently, they (most of the modal verbs) imply some mood which I perceive as a form of expressing the speaker's "intention" with a degree of likeliness hence the mood is subjunctive.

For example, one uses "would" in contexts that do not describe past behavior or past action. For instance, "I would do it (if I were you)" without actually saying the bracketed clause.

By seeing subjunctive in this way, I can then compare what I learn from various sources against my standard understanding of the mood. That's why it helps.

By the way, thank you for answering my question.

Cheers

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