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    #1

    What would you do ________?

    What would you do ________?
    (A) when you were bitten by a snake
    (B) if he lied to you
    (C) were you in my position
    (D) if you are in the elevator and it stops between floors
    (E) if you had lost your power of sight for just one day
    I think B is correct. But someone argues that A is also possible. I need native speakers' comments. Thank you.

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: What would you do ________?

    Quote Originally Posted by sitifan View Post
    What would you do ________?
    (A) when you were bitten by a snake
    (B) if he lied to you
    (C) were you in my position
    (D) if you are in the elevator and it stops between floors
    (E) if you had lost your power of sight for just one day
    I think B is correct. But someone argues that A is also possible. I need native speakers' comments. Thank you.
    A is not possible because the question starts with "What would you do ..." so is a hypothetical and wouldn't be followed by "when". In order for A to be correct, the beginning of the question would need to be "What did you do ..."

    B is the best answer. However, C also works, although it's not a common construction. D and E would only need slight amendments to make them correct.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #3

    Re: What would you do ________?

    The guy who argues that A is possible quotes some sentences as follows:

    Early childhood educators are frequently faced with ethical dilemmas in their
    work with young children and their families:
    What would you do when a parent demanded to know who hit her child?
    What would you do when a co-worker complained to you about another
    co-worker's treatment of a child?
    ‧ What would you do if a neighbour told you she heard had things about the
    last centre vou worked in?
    What would your responsibility be when another teacher told you that
    symptoms made her suspect child abuse, but that she was afraid to report it?
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Can any native speakers make more comments to clarify this point of usage? Thank you very much.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: What would you do ________?

    My only comment on those examples is that I find them unnatural and I would replace "when" with "if" in each one.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  3. 5jj's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: What would you do ________?

    It is possible to use when if would is used for past habitual actions:

    When I was a teacher, I would often have to deal with uncooperative parents.

    Your questions do not fit into that category.

    As ems suggested, 'when' is compatible with a question about factual situation; 'if' is the word for hypothetical situations. That is one of the fundamental differences between the two words.

  4. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: What would you do ________?

    Quote Originally Posted by sitifan View Post
    The guy who argues that A is possible quotes some sentences as follows:

    Early childhood educators are frequently faced with ethical dilemmas in their
    work with young children and their families:
    What would you do when a parent demanded to know who hit her child?
    What would you do when a co-worker complained to you about another
    co-worker's treatment of a child?
    ‧ What would you do if a neighbour told you she heard had things about the
    last centre vou worked in?
    What would your responsibility be when another teacher told you that
    symptoms made her suspect child abuse, but that she was afraid to report it?
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Can any native speakers make more comments to clarify this point of usage? Thank you very much.
    Further to my previous post when I explained that I would change "when" to "if" in all those examples, I want to add that "when" could be used in an almost hypothetical sense but only when talking about a possible (almost habitual) action, but still without using "would".

    Imagine that someone has been on a training course about dealing with young children, as in the examples you posted:

    - What do you do when a parent demands to know who hit his/her child?
    - What do you do when a co-worker complains to you about something?
    - What are your responsibilities when another teacher tells you she suspects child abuse?

    It's possible that none of those things will happen in your job, but you can still express what you would do if they did happen. Note that the "would/if" construction is much more natural and frequently heard than my "do/when" constructions above.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #7

    Re: What would you do ________?

    Hi, emsr2d2: Thank you for this last post. I enjoyed the progression in your line of thinking when presented with contexts and examples from a published book. I'd like to discuss some points further:

    Imagine that someone has been on a training course about dealing with young children, as in the examples you posted:

    - What do you do when a parent demands to know who hit his/her child?
    In the present tense, referring to potentiality of something happening in the future, there is (only) a slight modal difference between do and will. Do you agree that the template below will yield four combinations, all grammatical? (To be sure, some combinations are bound to be deemed more natural or will occur more frequently than others.)

    - What {do, will} you do {if, when} a parent demands to know who hit his/her child?

    It's possible that none of those things will happen in your job, but you can still express what you would do if they did happen.
    Staying still in the realm of future potentiality, if the speaker wants to convey a degree of tentativeness (I use this as an umbrella term that may include modalities of remoteness, hypotheticality, politeness, uncertainty, etc.), he or she shifts to the past tense, yielding:

    (1) What would you do if a parent demanded to know who hit his/her child?
    (2) What would you do when a parent demanded to know who hit his/her child?
    (3) *What did you do if a parent demanded to know who hit his/her child?
    (4) *What did you do when a parent demanded to know who hit his/her child?

    We note that the do -> did shift unfortunately results in moving the referred time from the future to the past, making (3) and (4) unsuitable for the intended future possibility with tentativeness. (1) and (2) are fine.

    Now, imagine someone has been in a setting (a training course or a place where getting snake bites isn't rare), talking about what to do or what typical remedies to take in case one gets bitten by a snake. Seeing the linguistic parallels in syntactic structure and modality, we draw a perfect analogy from the examples above and get:

    (5) What would you do if you were bitten by a snake?
    (6) What would you do when you were bitten ​by a snake?

    Clearly, (5) and (6) are fine. Again, some prefer if over when when the attitude is tentative. Also, we can confidently say that we observe (5) as being more frequently uttered than (6). But (2) and (6) are equally grammatical, with (2) coming from a published book.

    Throwing yet another parallel into the mix, still staying in "future potentiality":

    (7a) Jane: What would you do when a nuclear war broke out?
    (7b) John (being a pessimist): I would commit suicide if/when a nuclear war broke out.
    (7c) John's response, when indirectly reported: John said he would commit suicide if/when a nuclear war broke out.

    There is no "backshift" of tense in (7c). This is because backshifting is optional. In this case, not shifting to the "past perfective" is preferred because doing so ("John said he would have committed suicide ...") loses the meaning of future potentiality.
    Last edited by l10nel; 14-Apr-2013 at 05:09. Reason: fix spacing: aparent -> a parent

  5. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: What would you do ________?

    Quote Originally Posted by l10nel View Post
    Hi, emsr2d2: Thank you for this last post. I enjoyed the progression in your line of thinking when presented with contexts and examples from a published book. I'd like to discuss some points further:



    In the present tense, referring to potentiality of something happening in the future, there is (only) a slight modal difference between do and will. Do you agree that the template below will yield four combinations, all grammatical? (To be sure, some combinations are bound to be deemed more natural or will occur more frequently than others.)

    - What {do, will} you do {if, when} a parent demands to know who hit his/her child?



    Staying still in the realm of future potentiality, if the speaker wants to convey a degree of tentativeness (I use this as an umbrella term that may include modalities of remoteness, hypotheticality, politeness, uncertainty, etc.), he or she shifts to the past tense, yielding:

    (1) What would you do if a parent demanded to know who hit his/her child?
    (2) What would you do when a parent demanded to know who hit his/her child?
    (3) *What did you do if a parent demanded to know who hit his/her child?
    (4) *What did you do when a parent demanded to know who hit his/her child?

    We note that the do -> did shift unfortunately results in moving the referred time from the future to the past, making (3) and (4) unsuitable for the intended future possibility with tentativeness. (1) and (2) are fine.

    Now, imagine someone has been in a setting (a training course or a place where getting snake bites isn't rare), talking about what to do or what typical remedies to take in case one gets bitten by a snake. Seeing the linguistic parallels in syntactic structure and modality, we draw a perfect analogy from the examples above and get:

    (5) What would you do if you were bitten by a snake?
    (6) What would you do when you were bitten ​by a snake?

    Clearly, (5) and (6) are fine. Again, some prefer if over when when the attitude is tentative. Also, we can confidently say that we observe (5) as being more frequently uttered than (6). But (2) and (6) are equally grammatical, with (2) coming from a published book.

    Throwing yet another parallel into the mix, still staying in "future potentiality":

    (7a) Jane: What would you do when a nuclear war broke out?
    (7b) John (being a pessimist): I would commit suicide if/when a nuclear war broke out. If = When =
    (7c) John's response, when indirectly reported: John said he would commit suicide if/when a nuclear war broke out. If = When =

    There is no "backshift" of tense in (7c). This is because backshifting is optional. In this case, not shifting to the "past perfective" is preferred because doing so ("John said he would have committed suicide ...") loses the meaning of future potentiality.
    I'm afraid I don't have time to deal fully with this very long post as I have a fun and busy Sunday planned! However, I have taken the sentences you posted and marked them clearly as to whether they are natural/unnatural (right/wrong) in standard BrE.

    The short answer to your question of whether or not the examples are all grammatical is no.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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