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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Use of 2nd conditional in the past context

    Consider that I am participating in a competition and one of the contenders is my close friend. Competition is yet to take place and I am telling someone that "Even if it meant that he won the competition, I would still help him [in practising]." That is, I would help my friend even if it turned out to be a disaster (i.e. I would lose.)

    (I am not sure if above conditional sentence is correct, so please point out.)

    Say, I won the competition and now several years later I am recalling the incident and sharing the thoughts. Do you think the sentence below is correct?

    He was my close friend and even if it had meant that he had won the competition, I would have still helped him.

    Does it mean that in these scenarios 2nd conditional become 3rd?

    What about two hads above? In day-to-day conversation, is it acceptable?

  2. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #2

    Re: Use of 2nd conditional in the past context

    We do change to the third conditional for past situations. In conversation, some might use the past instead of had meant, but had meant is fine. I would use would win instead of had won for the second verb after had meant.

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    #3

    Re: Use of 2nd conditional in the past context

    I'd write I still would have helped him.
    I am not a teacher.

  4. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Use of 2nd conditional in the past context

    Quote Originally Posted by EnglishLearner007 View Post
    Consider that I am participating in a competition and one of the contenders is my close friend. Competition is yet to take place and I am telling someone that "Even if it meant that he won the competition, I would still help him [in practising]."
    What's not clear to me is why you would use an unreal conditional here. It implies that you are not going to help him. Is that what you mean?

    If you mean that you intend to help him, then use a 1st conditional: Even if it means that he wins, I'm still going to help him.

    If you mean that you have already been helping him, then use a real conditional again: Even if it means he wins, I would still help him again.

    (This is a bit of an unusual mix since the condition clause is a real future possibility and the consequence is imaginary.)



    Years later, you could say Even if it had meant that he won, I still would have helped him. This suggests that he didn't win despite the fact that you did help him. (Others may disagree with me here, but I think it's ambiguous at best.)

    If you are looking back and want to emphasise that you didn't help him, but you would have if you could have, then you can use: Even if it had meant that he won, I still would have helped him if I could have.

    And if you are looking back and want to say that he didn't participate, and therefore you didn't help him, you might say: Even if it had meant that he would have won, I still would have helped him [if I had had the chance.]

    (This post has hurt my head a little. I've just reread it several times. I'd appreciate anybody pointing out anything wrong!)

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    #5

    Re: Use of 2nd conditional in the past context

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    If you mean that you have already been helping him, then use a real conditional again: Even if it means he wins, I would still help him again.
    This is exactly what I wanted to say, and thank you for providing other examples as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Even if it had meant that he won, I still would have helped him.
    (Others may disagree with me here, but I think it's ambiguous at best.)
    Okay, I can see why you said that it was still ambiguous. The would have suggests that I did not help him. Am I right?

    By the way, I love this community. People are more than generous to help. Thank you, everybody.
    Last edited by EnglishLearner007; 14-Mar-2017 at 21:20.

  6. jutfrank's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Use of 2nd conditional in the past context

    Quote Originally Posted by EnglishLearner007 View Post
    Okay, I can see why you said that it was still ambiguous. The would have suggests that I did not help him. Am I right?
    Normally yes, but in this sentence I think it's the "still", which suggests that I did help him, i.e., I wouldn't change what I did. It's the contradiction between these two elements that makes it ambiguous, in my mind.

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    #7

    Re: Use of 2nd conditional in the past context

    Quote Originally Posted by jutfrank View Post
    Years later, you could say Even if it had meant that he won, I still would have helped him. This suggests that he didn't win despite the fact that you did help him. (Others may disagree with me here, but I think it's ambiguous at best.)
    Still does clear things up for me.

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