# Thread: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

1. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by 5jj
Keannu, you have been told several times in other threads, that the so-called second conditional can be used for a counterfactual present/general time or a hypothetical future. You have been told in this thread that is not used for an unlikely present.

If somebody says to me, "I think that John is in France", and I reply,"I'd be very surprised if he were(/was) in France", I choose that form to express that I do not believe that he is France. We may find out that I am wrong, but that is irrelevant. If there is any idea in my mind that he is in France, then I say, "If he is in France, ...". If I want to express the idea that I consider this to be a remote possibility, then I will use different words, such as: "In the (highly) unlikely event that he is in France, ..."
Sorry to have troubled you so much. When I was a mere student learning conditionals, I didn't give them a serious thought, but after becoming a tutor, I came to think very seriously about even delicate parts of them.

There has been some doubt in my mind about the percentage of probability in choosing so-called conditional1(predictive) or so-called condition 2(counterfactual or hypothetical), which may seem stupid to you. Now, I realize even counter-factual does depend on your attitude, and not depending on the percentage of probability(even if you have 5% improbability and it's strong, it can lead to conditional2, and you can't measure it by number), you use either conditional2 by any negative thoughts, and conditional 1 by any positive thoughts.

2. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by keannu
He seems to have said this in terms of the present counterf-factual, but he didn't verify that such prize distribution can never happen, so he might have said it's a remote possibility in general time just imagining a general-time not future hypothetical situation.
In this example, I would use the second conditional to show a hypothetical situation- it's not to do with whether there are or are not such prize distributions- this is shown by the use of could rather than would. It's not looking at the facts of prize distribution, but creating an imaginary situation for the purposes of generating a possible language form.

3. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by Tdol
In this example, I would use the second conditional to show a hypothetical situation- it's not to do with whether there are or are not such prize distributions- this is shown by the use of could rather than would. It's not looking at the facts of prize distribution, but creating an imaginary situation for the purposes of generating a possible language form.
I'm sorry, I tried to stop asking, but your explanation makes me ask again. Then, is it in the future condition or time in general? I think the latter.
I'm not contradicting there being only counter-factual for the present and hypothetical for the future, but as I said, there seem to be numerous cases for me to judge hard.

4. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

It's just an imaginary situation- there's no element of time here. I would say this sentence without any consideration of the time- the only thing I would use the conditional there to mark is the theoretical nature of the situation I am describing. I think it might help if the definition of general time included timeless or at any time, rather than sticking to past/present/future.

When we say that the earth goes round the sun, it is true that it was going round in the past, is going round now and will continue to go round in the future, as far as we know. However, when we say it, are we really thinking about time? Time is a measure that helps prove the fact, but we're probably thinking more about the fact than the time. General time is often a sort of timelessness. Time may influence our choice of tense and form, but it only one factor.

With the example of the prizes, the factor that governs the choice is the unreal nature of the situation- the choice moves into the realm of the imaginary and it does not locate it at any time IMO. The imaginary can be located in time past, present or future, but it can also be located outside of considerations of time. You can call the prizes example general time if you like, but unless you factor in the concept of timelessness, maybe eternity, to your definition of general time, then I think the picture will be incomplete. Conditionals allow us to play tricks with time and reality- a linguistic time machine that can rewrite the past and shape the future or change the present.

I would agree that it is time in general, but my view of time in general here includes the timeless.

5. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by Tdol
It's just an imaginary situation- there's no element of time here. I would say this sentence without any consideration of the time- the only thing I would use the conditional there to mark is the theoretical nature of the situation I am describing. I think it might help if the definition of general time included timeless or at any time, rather than sticking to past/present/future.

When we say that the earth goes round the sun, it is true that it was going round in the past, is going round now and will continue to go round in the future, as far as we know. However, when we say it, are we really thinking about time? Time is a measure that helps prove the fact, but we're probably thinking more about the fact than the time. General time is often a sort of timelessness. Time may influence our choice of tense and form, but it only one factor.

With the example of the prizes, the factor that governs the choice is the unreal nature of the situation- the choice moves into the realm of the imaginary and it does not locate it at any time IMO. The imaginary can be located in time past, present or future, but it can also be located outside of considerations of time. You can call the prizes example general time if you like, but unless you factor in the concept of timelessness, maybe eternity, to your definition of general time, then I think the picture will be incomplete. Conditionals allow us to play tricks with time and reality- a linguistic time machine that can rewrite the past and shape the future or change the present.

I would agree that it is time in general, but my view of time in general here includes the timeless.
That's why I said conditional 2 can't be restricted to only "counter-factual present" and "unlikely(hypothetical) future", it also includes timeless, beyond time, general time, whatever you call, hypothetical ones. I told you I've been too much confused about this kind of conditionals, so I don't know why so many grammar materials restrict it to only 2 cases.

6. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by keannu
I don't know why so many grammar materials restrict it to only 2 cases.
Because the word 'present' is often loosely used for 'general time'. It may not be the ideal word, but it is generally understood. When we say "If you were a woman, you'd understand", nobody takes this to mean 'If you were a woman at this present moment of speaking and at no other moment". When we want to speak of the present moment, we use a progressive form:
"If you were doing your homework now, your father wouldn't be so angry."

7. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by 5jj
Because the word 'present' is often loosely used for 'general time'. It may not be the ideal word, but it is generally understood. When we say "If you were a woman, you'd understand", nobody takes this to mean 'If you were a woman at this present moment of speaking and at no other moment". When we want to speak of the present moment, we use a progressive form:
"If you were doing your homework now, your father wouldn't be so angry."
I'm sorry, master, I understand what you mean, even in Korean or in any other languages in the world, the present can mean wide range of time, beyond time, timelss tense. Whenever I explain to my students that the present in both Korean and English can mean general time, they understand so easily. It's because human beings share the same sense of time.
But my last question was that the hypothetical for the future can be also exteded to timeless, general time and this kind of conditionals have always made me confused, unable to explain easily to my students. It's because all I could depend on was grammar books' definitions that never mention general time. Now I feel really satisfied.
So can I conclude my humble opinion?
conditional2 : 1.Counterfactual(present, often general time) 2.Hypothetical( future or general time(timeless, beyond time, whatever))

8. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by keannu
So can I conclude my humble opinion?
conditional2 : 1.Counterfactual(present, often general time) 2.Hypothetical( future or general time(timeless, beyond time, whatever))
Not really. If it's really essential to have the whole thing summarised in two lines, then I'd go for something like:

conditional 2 : 1.Counterfactual (present , often / general time) 2.Hypothetical (future or general time (timeless, beyond time, whatever))

As I have pointed out elsewhere*, "I believe that many of the problems with conditionals are caused by grammar and course books which attempt to make the system digestible for learner by presenting an over-simplified system cut up into little chunks. The result of this is that learners feel that they never get to the bottom of a system that appears to become ever more complex and throw up an increasing number of exceptions."

*http://www.gramorak.com/Articles/Conditionals.pdf

9. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by 5jj
Not really. If it's really essential to have the whole thing summarised in two lines, then I'd go for something like:

conditional 2 : 1.Counterfactual (present , often / general time) 2.Hypothetical (future or general time (timeless, beyond time, whatever))

As I have pointed out elsewhere*, "I believe that many of the problems with conditionals are caused by grammar and course books which attempt to make the system digestible for learner by presenting an over-simplified system cut up into little chunks. The result of this is that learners feel that they never get to the bottom of a system that appears to become ever more complex and throw up an increasing number of exceptions."

*http://www.gramorak.com/Articles/Conditionals.pdf
You mean this one belongs to counterfactual present/general time, not hypothetical future? Maybe he mentioned it doesn't happen generally.
But Tdol said it's a hypothetical conditional across all times. If it's not true, I can't help but conclude this is something that can not happen in the present or in general time from the speaker's point of view.

...In fact, if prizes were being handed out all day for various things, you could win "first prize" in the fifth prize awarded.....

10. ## Re: conditional 2- hard to tell tense

Originally Posted by keannu
You mean this one belongs to counterfactual present/general time, not hypothetical future? Maybe he mentioned it doesn't happen generally.

...In fact, if prizes were being handed out all day for various things, you could win "first prize" in the fifth prize awarded.....
keannu, how often do we say, "Context is important"? As Tdol wrote earlier in this thread (my emphasis added):

You are looking at single sentences for a definitive answer to things they cannot provide. We construct meaning in context and not in single sentences in isolation.
Grammar doesn't provide us with everything- it gives us pointers and the context will make things clearer.

Cut out that last sentence and stick it to the top of your computer screen.

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