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  1. #1

    as if ?

    What are the differnces between the following sentences ?

    1. He talks as if he is a teacher( it is very possible for him to be a teacher, right?

    2. He talks as if he were a teacher( It is very possible that he was a teacher, in the past or it is unlikely that he is a teacher now, which one is right?

    3. He talked as if he were a teacher( It was possbile that he worked as a teacher in the past , right?

    4. he talked as if he had been a teacher( it was possible that he had worked as a teacher or it was very unlikely that he was a teacher inthe past, which one is right?

    it is very confusing for ESL students like me to get the difference between the above 4 examples. please help me to understand the differnces.

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    #2

    Re: as if ?

    Hello Bosun

    They're all ambiguous.

    1.
    a) The speaker is beginning to think "he" might be a teacher, on the basis of the way he talks. In this version, stress "talks" ("he talks as if he's a teacher").

    b) He isn't a teacher, but resembles one in his speech.

    2. As #1.

    3. As #1; but the "talking" is in the past.

    4. As #1; the "being a teacher" precedes the "talking".

    See you,

    MrP

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    #3

    Re: as if ?

    Hello everyone,

    I think every learner is troubled by this use of "as if" and I totally sympathise with bosunyum because this question troubles me too.

    According to what you have both said, I draw my own conclusion and please tell me if I'm right.

    1. He talks as if he is a teacher
    (it is very possible that he is a teacher now because he behaves like one)

    2. He talks as if he were a teacher
    (He is NOT a teacher, but he behaves like one)

    3. He talked as if he were a teacher
    (a. It was possible that he worked as a teacher at the moment of speaking --which is past;
    b. he behaved like one but was NOT a teacher then)

    4. he talked as if he had been a teacher
    (a. It was possible that he had worked as a teacher before the "talking"
    b. He behaved like someone who had been a teacher before the moment of speech --which is already past-- but in reality he had never been a teacher before)

    Correct ??

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    #4

    Re: as if ?

    Hello Hela

    It's a little tricky, since "as if" is often ambiguous. Consider this example:

    1. He talks as if he's an expert.

    Here are two possible contexts:

    2.
    "I see that José is giving his opinion on the Champions' League final yet again."
    "I know. Tedious, isn't it?"
    "Very tedious. And the worst thing is, he talks as if he's an expert..."
    "When of course he knows absolutely nothing about the game..."

    — i.e. José is attempting to present himself, falsely, as an expert.

    3.
    "Did you read José's post about Arsenal vs Barcelona on Wednesday night?"
    "I did indeed."
    "I was quite surprised. I didn't know he was an expert on football."
    "Nor did I. But he certainly talks as if he's an expert..."

    — i.e. José resembles an expert, when he talks about the football; and he may well be one.

    In everyday conversation, the different stress pattern (see the italics in #3) distinguishes the two meanings. But in written English, it's not always possible to limit the meaning to one or the other, without the context!

    Does that make it any clearer? (Now that it's more complicated...)

    MrP

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    #5

    Re: as if ?

    Yes it does! But isn't the second interpretation of "he talks as if he is an expert" used only in speech and informal writing; whether the one with the subjunctive interprets better the unreality of a present situation in formal writing?

    And what do you think of my interpretations of the all the other possibilities, i.e. #3,4 & 5 ?

    Have a splendid day!
    Hela

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    #6

    Re: as if ?

    Hello Hela

    I can't speak for other kinds of English; but I don't find a clearcut formal/informal difference in the usage of ordinary BrE-speakers. It seems to me that people reach for the subjunctive (or a past tense form) when they want to express "remoteness", and the indicative when they want to express "immediacy"; but beyond that, I wouldn't like to say. (Though of course, some speakers never use a subjunctive; and some speakers are extremely conscious of using the subjunctive.)

    For instance, if you listen to a phone-in, you will hear subjunctives (and subjunctive inversions such as "Were you to XYZ...") from the kind of people the textbooks say don't use subjunctives; and if you listen to interviews with national political figures, you will hear indicatives where subjunctives are supposed to prevail.

    It would be much easier if it was clearcut...

    MrP

    PS: Your interpretations of #3 and #4 look fine to me, but I can't find #5. :S

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    #7

    Re: as if ?

    Sorry MrP I meant 3 (a & b) and 4 (a & b).

    Look forward to read you for more...

    All the best!

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