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Hello,

I hope someone reads and helps me

What are the differences between the two following sentences in meaning? Do they mean different things or is there a point where they semantically meet? Sometimes I find subjunctive constructions unbelievably complicated. In most cases, it is difficult to tell which is which.

From the report, it looked as if he played a crucial role in smuggling.

From the report, it looked as if he had played a crucial role in smuggling.

And here is some information about what outstanding writers say on the issue; I'm damned if I have understood anything! I'll send two packets of Turkish Delight and a tepsi of Baklava to whoever can help me out understand the subject:)

Michael SWAN : Practical English Usage, page 180-181

I felt like / as if I was swimming ( It seemed as if I was swimming)

Alice felt as if / as though she was in a very nice dream.

Alice feels as if / as though she is in a very nice dream.

Michael SWAN : Practical English Usage, page 424

5 If, as if and as though

It is used to introduce some clauses with if, as and as though.

It looks as if we’re going to have have trouble with an again

It’s not as if this was the first time she’s been difficult. ( gerçek değil ama öyle görünüyor. Hayali, uydurma)

Martin HEWINGS Advanced grammar in Use page 170.

I remember stepping off the boat in New York as if it were yesterday

Despite losing the election, she continuous to act as though she were prime minister.

A practical English Grammar A.J. THOMSON. A.V MARTINET Page : 250

The past subjunctive can be used similarly after as if / as though to indicate unreality or improbability or doubt in the present (there is no difference between as if and as though)

He behaves as if he owned th eplace ( But he doesn’t own it or probably doesn’t own it or we don’t know whether he owns it or not)

He talks as though he knew where she was (but he doesn’t know or he probably doesn’t know or we don’t know whether he knows or not)

He orders me about as if I were his wife ( But I am not).

The verb preceding as if as though can be put into a past tense without changing the tense of the subjunctive:

He talks / talked as though he knew where she was.

After as if / as though we use Past Perfect when refering to a real or imaginary action in the past:

He talks about Rome as though he had been there himself. (but he hasn’t or probably he hasn’t or we don’t know whether he has or not)

Again, the verb preceding as if / as though can be put into a Past Tense without changing the tense of the subjunctive :

He looks / looked as though he hadn’t had a decent meal for a month

Thanks a million!
Full Member273
I think the answers are in your post

Let’s look at your first sentence

From the report, it looked as if he played a crucial role in smuggling.

This is the subjunctive about the present.

From the report, it looked as if he played a crucial role in smuggling (But he does not play any crucial role in smuggling, or we don’t know whether he does or not)


The past subjunctive can be used similarly after as if / as though to indicate unreality or improbability or doubt in the present (there is no difference between as if and as though)


He behaves as if he owned the place ( But he doesn’t own it or probably doesn’t own it or we don’t know whether he owns it or not)

He talks as though he knew where she was (but he doesn’t know or he probably doesn’t know or we don’t know whether he knows or not)

He orders me about as if I were his wife (But I am not).



Your second sentence is about an action that could have happened in the past

From the report, it looked as if he had played a crucial role in smuggling

This is the subjunctive about the past

(but he did not play any part in smuggling, or we don’t know whether he did so or not)

After as if / as though we use Past Perfect when referring to a real or imaginary action in the past:

He talks about Rome as though he had been there himself. (but he hasn’t or probably he hasn’t or we don’t know whether he has or not)

The key to distinguish the different types of subjunctive is the verb tense of the subjunctive verb, and not the verb preceding "as if/as though"

Again, the verb preceding as if / as though can be put into a Past Tense without changing the tense of the subjunctive:

He looks / looked as though he hadn’t had a decent meal for a month => subjunctive about the past

He looks / looked as though he hadn't a decent meal for a month => subjunctive about the present
Full Member330
Hi Likeguslee ,

Thank you very much for your clean-cut explanation, but this question is befuddling me.:

1) it looks as though an agreement.....................yesterday between the two sides.

a)had been reached b)was reached

This question is from a test book and the suggested answer is : "a) had been reached", but most natives prefer b) was reached. Then how can we differentiate the reality from the unreality. "Was the agreement reached or not?" Which option would you choose? And what arguments would you bring forward to justify your option. Actually this is what causes me trouble.Thanks a lot.
This is the subjunctive about the past

After as if / as though we use Past Perfect when referring to a real or imaginary action in the past:

He talks about Rome as though he had been there himself. (but he hasn’t or probably he hasn’t or we don’t know whether he has or not)

The key to distinguish the different types of subjunctive is the verb tense of the subjunctive verb, and not the verb preceding "as if/as though"

The correct answer is a.

It looks as though an agreement had been reached yesterday between the two sides

(but there was no agreement or we don’t know whether there was an agreement or not)


It looks as though an agreement was reached yesterday between the two sides

Was would be the incorrect tense to use in this situation since this is a subjunctive mood and not an indicative mood.

Native speakers often do not study grammar, and they are not familiar with the structure of the subjunctive mood. However, all grammar books will tell you that “was” would be incorrect.

With all due respect, as though need not be followed by a subjunctive verb and therefore 'It looks as though an agreement was reached yesterday between the two sides' is correct. The 'was' is due to 'yesterday', which requires the past tense in this sentence.

Cf. It looks like/as if/as though it's going to rain.
No subjunctive mood in that sentence.

Cheers
CB

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Thank you again Likeguslee, BTW, are you a native speaker of English? Your comment sounds logical to me.I 'm bogged down in the grammar mud:(
The question here is what attitude, state of mind or intent did the speaker want to convey? In the given sentence, if you think the speaker meant to express doubt about the success of the negotiation, then the correct tense to use would be the past perfect to indicate an unreal situation in the past.

The rules governing the construct of the past subjunctive were already given in the books that you cited. A practical English Grammar A.J. THOMSON. A.V MARTINET Page : 250, and Martin HEWINGS Advanced grammar in Use page 170.

On the other hand, if you think that the speaker was relatively sure about the outcome, then the correct tense was just the simple past.

Here are some relevant discussions about “as if” and “as though” from the British Council web site:

http://www.learnenglish.org.uk/grammar/archive/as_if.html

As if & as though

We can use as if when we want to say what something or someone seems like. As though can be used in exactly the same way:

He looks as if/though he hasn't slept all night. (His appearance suggests this, i.e. he looks very tired)

It feels as if/though summer's on the way. (The warm air and sunny sky suggests this)

It sounds as if/though they've arrived. (The sound of a car stopping, doors opening, people talking outside suggest this)

We can also use as if and as though with a past verb tense, to suggest that something is unreal:

She behaves as if/though she were the Queen. (She obviously isn't the Queen)

He walks as if/though he were an old man. (But in fact he's a young man)

They talk as if/though the world were coming to an end. (Of course it's not)

Compare the following two sentences:

He looks as if/though he's sick. (He is sick)

He talks as if/though he were sick. (But actually he's well)

In informal speech, we can use like instead of as if/though:

He looks like he hasn't slept all night.

It feels like summer's on the way.

It sounds like they've arrived.
1) it looks as though an agreement.....................yesterday between the two sides.

a)had been reached b)was reached

"B" was reached

. "The agreement may have been reached yesterday" could be sort of a restatement of this question. Correct me If I'm wrong.
Anonymous:
In the first sentence, after "as if" (and after "it looked" which is the simple past too,) the simple past tense follows. The sentence means that in 50% he might have played a crucial role; in 50 % he might have not; we do not know;

In the second sentence after "as if" (and after "it looked" which is the past tense as well) the past perfect follows. The sentence means that he did not play any crucial role in smuggling and we are sure of it. It only looked so. It is not subjunctive here!

See ROUND UP 6 by Virginia Evans As if Clauses.
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