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    #1

    What if...

    Hi there!

    I was wondering if these chunks, followed by a verb in the present or one in the past, make any difference in the beginning of a sentence.

    What if I told you that...
    What if I tell you that...

    Cheers,
    Tito

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: What if...

    They appear to have the same meaning, but full sentences would lead to a better answer.

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    #3

    Re: What if...

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****


    Hello, Tito:

    I do not have the answer, but I do have some information to share with you.

    1. The New Oxford American Dictionary (2001) tells us that the phrase "what if" means "What would result if ____?" Its example: "What if nobody shows up?" [I emphasized the present tense.]

    2. I checked the Web as carefully as possible, and I found one interesting comment in Stack Exchange:

    "With a first-person subject, there is not too much difference in meaning, but if I tell you is saying it is quite possible that I will tell you, whereas if I told you is considering a hypothesis, probably less likely."

    3. Look at this example from the online Macmillan Dictionary:

    "What if the boss walked in here now and saw us?" [My emphasis again]

    Compare this with: "What if the boss walks in here now and sees us?"

    In my OPINION, the first sentence implies a less likelihood that the boss will actually walk in.

    4. Therefore, as the Stack Exchange answer implies, perhaps there is not too much of a difference between (let's say) "What if I tell you that I love you?" and "What if I told you that I love you?"

    But I do detect a slight difference, which I am not able to articulate (explain).

    Hopefully another member can. I am eager to know.



    James

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: What if...

    It does not make much sense to pursue nuance that average speakers would not understand or recognize.

    A: You say you like dogs. What if I told you my dog was a pit bull.
    B: You say you like dogs. What if I told you my dog is a pit bull.
    C: You say you like dogs. What if I tell you my dog is a pit bull?

    I don't see much difference here.

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