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    #1

    Sequence of tenses

    From the point of view of the sequence of tenses, please let me know which of the following sentences in correct:
    If my boyfriend knew we are in danger, he would surely come to rescue us.
    If my boyfriend knew we were in danger, he would surely come to rescue us.

    Thank you beforehand!

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    #2

    Re: Sequence of tenses

    Welcome to the forum, SteM.

    This stuff is not my forte, but for a start, this is what I'd say:

    If my boyfriend knows we are in danger, he will surely come to rescue us.
    If my boyfriend knew we are/were in danger, he would surely come to rescue us.
    If my boyfriend had known we were in danger, he would surely have come to rescue us.

    Stand by for more knowledgable responses.

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    #3

    Smile Re: Sequence of tenses

    Thank you, Rover_KE!

    The problem is that I have these sentences in the context of a multiple choice exercise. These are options a and c, while option b is:"If my boyfriend knows we are in danger, he would surely come to rescue us.", which is obviously wrong. The correct answer is considered "If my boyfriend knew we are in danger, he would surely come to rescue us.", while I would choose were for sequence of tenses reasons. It sometimes happens with authors of such exercises to be "more Catholic than the Pope", in that they might be both acceptable?

    Sorry for being a nuisance!
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 24-Mar-2016 at 23:06. Reason: Deleting unnecessary quote.

  1. kilroy65's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Sequence of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by SteM View Post
    The correct answer is considered "If my boyfriend knew we are in danger, he would surely come to rescue us.", while I would choose were for sequence of tenses reasons.
    Although the verb "know" is in its past form, the sentence refers to a hypothetical situation in the present (often called "second conditional"). This might explain the "correct" answer, meaning that "you are still in danger".

    On the other hand, you are right to consider the sequence of tenses as another important argument. I think both options are possible, as suggested in post #2.

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    #5

    Re: Sequence of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by kilroy65 View Post
    Although the verb "know" is in its past form, the sentence refers to a hypothetical situation in the present (often called "second conditional"). This might explain the "correct" answer, meaning that "you are still in danger".

    On the other hand, you are right to consider the sequence of tenses as another important argument. I think both options are possible, as suggested in post #2.

    Thank you, kilroy65! Yes, it makes perfect sense. In this case they shouldn't be offered in a multiple choice exercise with one correct answer.

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    #6

    Re: Sequence of tenses

    I believe that "If my boyfriend knew we are in danger, he would surely come to rescue us" is wrong.
    It's very unnatural. I'm surprised that a native speaker could endorse 'are' as being equally as good as 'were'.
    Rover, would you really say this?

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    #7

    Re: Sequence of tenses

    I'm with Ray on this one.

    When talking about an imaginary situation with reference to the time of speaking, you'd normally use the past tense to indicate present unreality. Unlike in reported speech - where it is allowed under some circumstances to use the present tense - you don't actually use it in the that-clause to talk about the facts that may be true at the time of speaking. You keep the tense in parallel with that in the conditional clause.

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    #8

    Re: Sequence of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by engee30 View Post
    I
    I'm with Rover - at least to the extent that I accept the possibility of the present tense. The being in danger itself is not presented as unreal; it's the boyfriend's knowledge of this danger that is in doubt. We have here a case of indirect speech, albeit indirect hypothetical knowledge. If the speaker is actually in danger at the time of the utterance, then I think that the present tense is possible.

    Having said that, I also feel that the past-tense form 'were' is more likely, as the indirect speech form is sandwiched in a hypothetical conditional.

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    #9

    Re: Sequence of tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I believe that "If my boyfriend knew we are in danger, he would surely come to rescue us" is wrong.

    Rover, would you really say this?
    No. You are right.

    LATER EDIT: I started off by saying this stuff's not my forte, and I'm glad to get a partial endorsement of my original gut feeling.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 26-Mar-2016 at 12:28.

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    #10

    Re: Sequence of tenses

    I too had this approach in mind, Piscean. And I couldn't defend it as being wrong either. I just felt that using the past tense forms in the structure in question was 'more digestible' as far as grammar was concerned.

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