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He never says a word unless he's being threatened in someway.

My question here is why the speaker used the form "is being threatened" and not "is threatened". When I should use the first form "is threatened" and not the second "is being threatened"? Is there a certain rule to follow?

If you drive carefully, you will have fewer accidents.

If you drove carefully, you wouldn't have so many accidents.

The first sentence doesn't sound like a warning to me, but rather like advice, I'd say. The second sentence uses the past tense but it is not retrospective because in conditional clauses the simple past tense-when it's used in both clauses; the main and condition clause-usually refers to either the unreal present or the unreal future but never to the past.

To say that the second sentence is retrospective, then it should be:

If you had driven carefully, you wouldn't have had so many accidents.

Which means you didn't drive carefully at some time in the past and as a result you had so many accidents.

I think the speaker in the second sentence " If you drove carefully, you wouldn't have so many accidents" is referring to unreal or imaginary condition in the present (you don't drive carefully so you do have so many accidents, but if you drove carefully, you wouldn't have so many accidents.

The trouble I am having with unreal/hypothetical conditionals is that sometimes I can't tell whether the sentence refers to a present/future real condition or to a present/future unreal condition. Is it a matter of the speaker's choice and his/her degree of certainty about the possibility of a situation-if it is likely or unlikely to happen?

If you help me now, you are a true friend.

If you helped me, you would be a true friend.

The first sentence makes a complete sense to me. It suggests that the speaker is somewhat sure that his/her friend is gonna help. Am I right there? The second sentence, however, indicates that the speaker doubts that his/her friend will lend a hand.

If they didn't show him the way, he will not find the right office.

If they don't show him the way, he will not find the right office.

If they didn't show him the way, he wouldn't find the right office.

The first sentence sounds fine (the guy has already asked for directions, but he will not find the right office unless the people he has asked them for directions have already showed him the way. Is my interpretation correct?

Usually if the condition clause (that contains the "if") is in the simple past tense, the main clause cannot be in the future tense. However, in the first sentence tenses; simple past and future are mixed up. Is this grammatical? Under which conditions can we mix up tenses like in the first sentence?

The second sentence is predictive. The speaker is certain that the guy will not find the office (as long as they don't show him the way, he definitely won't find the right office). Predictive sentences usually refer to the real future (events and situations that are possible and likely to happen). Various forms of the present tense can be used in the condition clause and different forms of the future tense can be used in the main clause. I am right?

The third sentence is also predictive but more hypothetical (less possible and unlikely to happen). The speaker in this sentence is less certain whether the guy may find the right office (I don't think he is likely to find the office). My question here is about the tense reference. Is the speaker referring to the unreal present or to the unreal future? Again, how can I tell?

If it rains tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.

If it should rain tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.

If it is raining tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.

The first and the third sentences sound perfectly correct to me. Both suggest the possibility of raining tomorrow. The third, however, implies that it is less likely to rain tomorrow but if it happens to rain, then be sure to close the windows. The use of "should" implies that something is probable, 85% likely to happen. "rains" and "is raining" suggest a higher possibility of raining, 95-100% likely to happen. Am I right?

Is the use of "should" above restricted to formal context? Is it likely to occur in everyday conversational conditionals?

If the truth is known, public opinion will change.

If the truth were known, public opinion would change.

The speaker in the first sentence is somewhat sure that if the truth is revealed, then public opinion will change whereas the speaker in the second sentence sounds less certain (if the truth were to be known-which I don't think would happen, then public opinion would probably change).

My question is again about the tense reference. Do both sentences 1&2 refer to the present unreal or to the future unreal? How can I tell if a predictive or hypothetical statement refers to the real/unreal present or future? Any specific grammatical rules?
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Waow, that's quite a lot for a first post Emotion: surprise...

I think overall you have a good grasp on tenses and a good understanding of how exactly to use them. I wouldn't be able to better explain how appropriate the above tense combinations are, and most of your comments make full sense to me.
I'm happy to make a stab at answering some of your questions, although I'm not a grammar expert...

He never says a word unless he's being threatened in someway.
I'd say the continuous form here indicates he has to be persistently threatened before we can hope to hear a word from him.

If they didn't show him the way, he will not find the right office.
That particular one does not sound ok to me. Assuming it indeed happened in the past that he was provided with the itinerary, then I would think using 'if' isn't correct. It would have to be 'As' or 'Since' or 'Because'.

I'm sorry I can't answer your main question about real/unreal present or future. Hopefully some native will be of assistance to you : there are a couple of active grammar gurus in this forum.
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Welcome to English Forums!

What a long post! You might consider breaking it up into smaller posts so as not to scare off the reponders! Emotion: smile

In general, native speakers don't focus much, if at all, on the question of real or unreal conditions, pasts, futures, and the like. More simply, each form tells more or less the same story, but with a different "feeling content". Moreover, native speakers don't always speak in such formulaic ways, with a clearly defined "if" and "then" clause.

The forms with "will" (or the present tense, or the imperative) are matter-of-fact in feeling-content. They are mere observations of a relationship between one situation and another.

If you drive carefully, you will have fewer accidents.
If you help me now, you are a true friend.
If they don't show him the way, he will not find the right office.
If it rains tomorrow, be sure to close the windows.
If the truth is known, public opinion will change.

The forms with "would" have various non-matter-of-fact elements showing the attitude of the speaker toward the facts portrayed within the condition and consequence.
In general, the most common attitudinal content added in these cases -- if the subject is "you" -- is a sense of reproach, a sense of shaming the listener into cooperating:

If you drove carefully, you would have fewer accidents. (You don't drive carefully enough, and I've noticed this. Take my advice and drive more carefully.)
If you helped me, you would be a true friend. (You may be considering not helping me. But then you risk being called a less-than-true friend. Take my implied advice and help me.)

In other cases -- the subject is not "you" -- the additional attitudinal element can be the strong suggestion that the speaker does not believe the situation in the "if" clause is true. (In a way, this is really not that different from what is mentioned above concerning "you" as subject.)
If the truth were known, public opinion would change. (The speaker, in all likelihood, believes that the truth is unknown at the time of the utterance.) (In the corresponding "will" form, the speaker has no opinion whether the truth is known or not.)
If they didn't show him the way, he wouldn't find the right office. (The special feeling-content of this formula is much weakened by the use of the negative.)

CJ
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Comments  
"If they didn't show him the way, he will not find the right office."

This pattern is not common. The meaning to be conveyed here would likely be expressed differently.

"Well, he's certainly not going to find the right office if they didn't show him the way!"
"Well, he'll never find the right office because they didn't even show him the way!"
"How do they expect him to find the right office if they didn't (even) show him the way?"

CJ
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Thanks Jim for that by the end of your posts, I feel a little bit more educated each time... and it's much more fun than opening my grammar book...Emotion: big smile

if you had driven more carefully you wouldn't have had the accedent