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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    Hi, could you please help me with a topic that's been driving me crazy for some time?

    Should it be:

    -I wish I knew what you are thinking.

    -I wish I knew what you were thinking.

    I'm referring to the present. I have asked several natives and got mixed opinions. I turned to grammar books, even most reputable ones, and I still don't have an answer, since those books don't seem to take this matter into consideration at all. I would be inclined to use the first one, because I think the second one implies a past meaning

    The same situation arises with 2nd conditional structures. Example:

    -What would you think if I told you I still loved/love you?

    Please shed light on this, I've been literally losing sleep at night over it. Thank you in advance.

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    #2

    Re: Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    Welcome to the forum.

    'I wish I knew what you are thinking (now).'

    'I wish I knew what you were thinking (now or in the past).'

    'What would you think if I told you I still love you (now)?'

    'What would you think if I told you I still loved you (now or in the past)?'

    It's not worth losing sleep over.

  2. Newbie
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    #3

    Re: Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    Welcome to the forum.

    'I wish I knew what you are thinking (now).'

    'I wish I knew what you were thinking (now or in the past).'

    'What would you think if I told you I still love you (now)?'

    'What would you think if I told you I still loved you (now or in the past)?'

    It's not worth losing sleep over.
    Thanks for your reply. Could you tell me why you can shift the present to the past? and if the sentence referred to the past, should I backshift the past? for example:

    - what would you do if I told you your boyfriend (had) cheated on you when you were together?

    is the past perfect necessary?

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    #4

    Re: Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    I don't think it's necessary in this example or in the I wish sentence, but you can use it in both cases.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    "Could you tell me why you can shift the present to the past?"
    You can think of it as subjunctive - in fact, I'd say it is past subjunctive. This isn't the past tense here; it only has the same form as the past tense.
    "You are happy; I wish you were happy." 'Were' is the present subjunctive of 'are'. The reason you won't always get this answer is that we tend not to focus much on the subjunctive in English, but it still exists.

    Backshifting is a different concept.
    Last edited by Raymott; 24-Mar-2015 at 04:53.

  4. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I'd say it is present subjunctive... 'Were' is the present subjunctive of 'are'.
    Why is it not the past subjunctive?

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    #7

    Re: Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    I'd call were the past subjunctive and be the present.

  5. Matthew Wai's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    Quote Originally Posted by yuri05 View Post
    Could you tell me why you can shift the present to the past?
    Can the following be the reason?
    The past subjunctives 'knew' and 'told' have been used, so the verbs after them can also be used in the past subjunctive although they refer to the present, so that the mood will be consistent.

    Not a teacher.

  6. Raymott's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Subordinate clause after wish or 2nd conditional

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew Wai View Post
    Why is it not the past subjunctive?
    Sorry, yes, you are right. I'll correct it. It is indeed the past subjunctive. (See, that's how often we discuss it!)
    The important point is that it's subjunctive, not past tense.

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