[Grammar] Subjunctive mood ' if '

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jiaruchan

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Background: 153 miners are still being trapped in a Chinese flooded coal mine. We don't know how many are alive and how many are dead. A China's English news channel reports:

If they did not survive, it would be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007.

The report is written in subjunctive mood, but I think the hypothesis is real. Isn't it better to say:
If they do not survive, it will be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007. ??

Thank you.
 
I think it's real too, but it's past simply, hence 'did'. No subjunctive here in my opinion.

I am not a teacher.
 
Background: 153 miners are still being trapped in a Chinese flooded coal mine. We don't know how many are alive and how many are dead. A China's English news channel reports:

If they did not survive, it would be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007.

The report is written in subjunctive mood, but I think the hypothesis is real. Isn't it better to say:
If they do not survive, it will be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007. ??

Thank you.

If they do not survive, it will be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007. This sentence is too direct, it is implying that they really think that this is going to be the most disastrous minig accident.
Your first sentence is more uncertain, it is still possible that they survive or it is not.
I think reporters use that language in order to cover their backs in a way, so that what they say don't sound alarmistic if they are not sure.
 
Background: 153 miners are still being trapped in a Chinese flooded coal mine. We don't know how many are alive and how many are dead. A China's English news channel reports:

If they did not survive, it would be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007.

The report is written in subjunctive mood, but I think the hypothesis is real. Isn't it better to say:
If they do not survive, it will be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007. ??

Thank you.

If you follow the prescriptive grammar rule, maybe the sentence should read
"If they did not survive, it would be ... "
However, to my ears, the other sentence "If they do not survive, it will be ... "
sounds much better here, because it implies somehow we hope they survive.


Not a native speaker
 
Background: 153 miners are still being trapped in a Chinese flooded coal mine. We don't know how many are alive and how many are dead. A China's English news channel reports:

If they did not survive, it would be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007.

The report is written in subjunctive mood, but I think the hypothesis is real. Isn't it better to say:
If they do not survive, it will be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007. ??

Thank you.

To me "If they do not survive, it will be ... " sounds more appropriate, because it is an open condition, it is possible that they either survive or not, and we are willing that they do survive. Unfortunately, if they do not, for some reasons (statistical or any other criteria), it will be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007.

PS Not a native speaker
 
Yes, but I think we can also talk about improbable situations with the past + would, it can sound less definite or if it is a news report they are using a more polite language.
 
You seem to not like the idea the indicative mood here. Why?
 
It's not that I don't like it, it's just that the other construction sounds too direct to me, it is sure that it's going to happen like in: If you study, you'll pass...If you do that..this other thing will happen (nearly for sure)

While the past and would construction sounds tentative and likely to appear in a news report.

But that is only my humble opinion and I think I might also be getting mixed up with the Zero conditional :-D
 
Oh, but I'm not talking about changing it to 'if they don't survive...' I'm sorry for not being clear. What I have in mind is that the original sentence could be as it is and still be considered to have no subjunctive in it. Just the past indicative. The 'would' in the other clause could indicate that it's your way, but we use similar constructions in Polish, so maybe they're OK in English too. I didn't check it anywhere, I'm just asking.
 
It's not that I don't like it, it's just that the other construction sounds too direct to me, it is sure that it's going to happen like in: If you study, you'll pass...If you do that..this other thing will happen (nearly for sure)

While the past and would construction sounds tentative and likely to appear in a news report.

But that is only my humble opinion and I think I might also be getting mixed up with the Zero conditional :-D

I guess when you mean "too direct" you mean "too conclusive", an "inference for sure". The first conditional construction means, that if the first sentence is true, then the second one will follow immediately.

"If you study, you'll pass" does not imply that you will pass. It only gives you the certainty in case you study, that is, if you study. It does not mean you will probably study or not.

The same situation happens with
"If they do not survive ... "
Nothing is assumed about the probability of their survival. However, based on other data, if they happen not to survive, it will be such and such.
 
Background: 153 miners are still being trapped in a Chinese flooded coal mine. We don't know how many are alive and how many are dead. A China's English news channel reports:

If they did not survive, it would be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007.

The report is written in subjunctive mood, but I think the hypothesis is real. Isn't it better to say:
If they do not survive, it will be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007. ??

Thank you.

The more I read the posts in this thread, the more I believe only that here only the construction "If the do not survive, it will be ... " works. The original "If they did not survive, it would ... " is not correct since it is still an open possibility.

Not a native speaker
 
Oh, but I'm not talking about changing it to 'if they don't survive...' I'm sorry for not being clear. What I have in mind is that the original sentence could be as it is and still be considered to have no subjunctive in it. Just the past indicative. The 'would' in the other clause could indicate that it's your way, but we use similar constructions in Polish, so maybe they're OK in English too. I didn't check it anywhere, I'm just asking.

Ok, I can see what you mean. I would consider it a subjunctive, I would translate into Spanish as a subjunctive, but that's just my opinion again.:-D
 
Good to be understood anyway :-D
 
Thanks, everybody. Does everyone agree the indicative mood is better now?
 
Thanks, everybody. Does everyone agree the indicative mood is better now?

I'm sorry if I am throwing a monkey wrench into this, but it seems to me that either sentence is correct. It depends on the intentions of the author.

The original sentence was:
If they did not survive, it would be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007.

As I read this it seems to me that the author is saying:
We don't know if anyone survived or not. If no one did, in fact, survive this tragic accident, it would be the worst accident since 2007.

But I would certainly accept your own revised sentence, as well. To my mind it is a matter of style and nuance.

I am very open to other opinions on this. Wrestling with challenging sentences such as these is what makes the study of English interesting. If no one did, in fact, take different sides on such sentences, it would make for a less interesting forum.
 
Background: 153 miners are still being trapped in a Chinese flooded coal mine. We don't know how many are alive and how many are dead. A China's English news channel reports:

If they did not survive, it would be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007.

The report is written in subjunctive mood, but I think the hypothesis is real. Isn't it better to say:
If they do not survive, it will be China's most disastrous mining accident since 2007. ??

Thank you.



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

Good afternoon.

(1) What an interesting thread. I have always had problems with the conditional, so I am always attracted to such discussions.

(2) I am probably wrong, but I suggest that the sentence "If they DID not survive, it WOULD be China's worst such disaster" is defective.

(3) Jiaruchan says it comes from a Chinese English-language channel. Of course, the announcers do a wonderful job (we wish that we could speak Chinese half as well as they speak English). Nevertheless, let's be frank (in a gentle and respectful manner): Chinese English-language channels do not necessarily always use idiomatic English.

(4) I have come to a conclusion (probably wrong) after reading mmasny's post and Michael Swan's indispensable book:

(a) As mmasny suggested, this is NOT an unreal situation.

(b) Mr. Swan states: When we do not wish to suggest that a situation is unreal, we use ORDINARY TENSES with "if" -- the same as with other conjunctions.

(5) Therefore, I suggest we have at least two "good" sentences:

(i) If they do not survive (which is possible), it will turn out to be China's worst such disaster.

(ii) If they did not survive (the reports coming in now are pessimistic), this WILL (not "would" of unreal situations) be China's worst such disaster.

(a) Could we even say: If the miners have died (we have not heard anything from them in five days), this will turn out to be. ...

(iii) Mr, Swan gives this example that I have used (rightly or wrongly) as my evidence that the sentence at hand is not unreal:

If you did not do maths at school, you WILL find economics difficult.

Please pardon me if I am all wet.
 
I think what MASM is saying is that responsible news reporters don't become exited about reporting record casualties and disasters until they happen.
"Wow, if these guys don't survive, it'll be the biggest mining disaster in years!"
"Yes, but get this - if twice as many people didn't survive, it would be the biggest mining disaster for 50 years!!"


Given that the second sentence is in the subjunctive, it still doesn't seem any less 'direct' to me - if I understand correctly that MASM means 'blunt, tasteless, slightly offensive'.
 
(a) Could we even say: If the miners have died (we have not heard anything from them in five days), this will turn out to be. ...
Yes, or "If they haven't survived ...", which is more cognate to the original.
 
I think what MASM is saying is that responsible news reporters don't become exited about reporting record casualties and disasters until they happen.
"Wow, if these guys don't survive, it'll be the biggest mining disaster in years!"
"Yes, but get this - if twice as many people didn't survive, it would be the biggest mining disaster for 50 years!!"


Given that the second sentence is in the subjunctive, it still doesn't seem any less 'direct' to me - if I understand correctly that MASM means 'blunt, tasteless, slightly offensive'.

Yes, thank you, that is what I meant but I didn't manage to get my meaning across. Anyway, I usually get confused by conditionals mainly because of an interference with my own language :-D. So, thank you all for clearing things up!

xxx
 
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