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    #1

    If I knew what you wanted/want

    This sentence is taken from Cambridge Advanced Grammar In Use.

    If I knew what you wanted, I'd help you.

    Should we not use 'want' rather than 'wanted' in this sentence because we're talking about a present situation using the unreal conditional?

    Thanks a lot.

  1. Donbelid's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: If I knew what you wanted/want

    No. Because of "knew" we must use the past form of the verb "want".

    I think you know, this type of conditional sentence implies an imaginary idea at present; however we use a past tense structure.

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    #3

    Re: If I knew what you wanted/want

    Thanks, Donbelid. Then, in the sentence 'If I knew where he lives/lived, I'd tell you', we must use 'lived', is that right?

    Thank you again.

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    #4

    Re: If I knew what you wanted/want

    These seem fine to me:

    1. If I knew where Shakespeare lived, I'd tell you.
    2. If I knew where MrP lived, I'd tell you.
    3. If I knew where he lives, I'd tell you.

    In #1, the "living" is in the past.

    In #2, the "living" is in the present; the past simple of "live" reflects the tense of "know", by sequence of tenses.

    In #3, the living is also in the present; the present simple of "live" reflects the present-ness of the "living".

    #3 may be used where #2 might cause confusion; or simply as a stylistic preference.

    Best wishes,

    MrP

    Not a professional ESL teacher.


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    #5

    Re: If I knew what you wanted/want

    In a Longman grammar look up "sequence of tenses," or "reported speech." I think that will help you.

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