# Thread: as if subjunctive vs indicative

1. ## as if subjunctive vs indicative

In constructions with "as if", the use of the past implies a comparison which we know is not true, whereas the use of the present makes the comparison possible, thus:

"She behaves as if she were really wealthy" means that we know she isn't really wealthy. Similarly,

"She looks as if she's really wealthy" means that she could very well be wealthy.

Now, in the following example I get the sense that The situation is not true

each student in the psychophysics laboratory takes a turn sitting in front of three buckets of water-one cold, one at room temperature, and one hot. After placing one hand in the cold water and one in the hot water, the student is told to place both in the lukewarm water simultaneously. Then something surprising happens. Even though both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that was in the cold water feels as if it is now in the hot water, while the one in the hot water feels as if it is in cold water.

Following the explanation above, the correct form would be “as if it ”were“ now in the hot water. But isn't the present, as stated above, only for cases that we know there are possibilities? :confused:

2. ## Re: as if subjunctive vs indicative

I am a big fan of the subjunctive, but I am not bothered by the indicative in this case. What the students felt was real, not hypothetical.

3. ## Re: as if subjunctive vs indicative

"As if" is generally used only when the condition is false: she is not wealthy If you want to talk about her apparent wealth and indicate that she may indeed be wealthy, you should say "She looks like she might (or may) be ...".

4. ## Re: as if subjunctive vs indicative

"As if" is generally used only when the condition is false:

I can't agree, probus - at least that doesn't happen in AusE.
"You look as if you've had a good time." (You are smiling, etc).
"This guy looks as if he's had enough for tonight." (He's vomiting in the gutter).
"You look as if you've had your hair cut since we met last." (He has).

5. ## Re: as if subjunctive vs indicative

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

Hello, Luke Kim:

1. "He acts as if he were in love with her."

2. "He acts as [he would act] if he were in love with her."

3. "He acts as if he is in love with her."

A great scholar explains that #1 is a shorter way to say #2.

He explains #3 this way: "The present indicative is used here to indicate greater confidence."

Source: George Oliver Curme, A Grammar of the English Language (1931), Volume I, page 282.

*****

Only my opinion: I am pretty sure that in 2015, many (most?) Americans in ordinary conversation would say, "He acts like he's in love with her."

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