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If we were still together, I would be happy.

I see the above as second conditional--which refers to the future.

But what if we want to talk about the present; do we use the zero conditional:

If we are still together, I am happy.

But what if you wanted to refer to the present, but suggest that it is unlikey? You then change the verb to the subjunctive, which changes the forumla from zero conditional to what?

If we were still together, I am happy.

??
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Dear friend,
English 1b3If we were still together, I would be happy.

I see the above as second conditional--which refers to the future.

- this type of condition is called hypothetical - the speaker believes it will not be fulfilled. You call it a second conditional, and I will not interfere with your terminology if it is more convenient for you. The crucial moment, however, is that second conditional may have both present and future reference. So, if you want to suggest that the present proposition is unlikely, you can use a second conditional - this is no experimental or marginal view - in fact, it is universally accepted by different grammarians.

Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
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Hi

Personally, I wouldn't fret too much about the different 'types' of conditional. The important thing is to understand how the were- subjunctive (or 'past' subjunctive) functions when used in an if-conditional clause. The were- subjunctive expresses a hypothetical or unreal meaning; in other words it deals with things that not only have not happened, but never will. It is used mainly in conditional clauses introduced by if, such as the one you cited. But be careful with a conditional clause that uses the were- subjunctive mood. An if-clause with was (i.e. the indicative mood) implies that an event may take place but, when used with the were- subjunctive, that possibility is 'cancelled out', and the event becomes purely hypothetical (or extremely unlikely).

So in your sentence, the clause 'if we were together' implies that 'togetherness' will not occur, so to follow it with I am happy' makes no sense. The subordinate'if- clause is a conditional, and it needs to be followed by a modal verb form that reflects a feeling of dependency on the outcome of the conditional clause. This is normally done by using should (with the 1st person) or would (with the others), such as:

If we were still together, I should be happy.

If they were still together, they would be happy
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Hello,
BillJAn if-clause with was (i.e. the indicative mood) implies that an event may take place
- was can be used as a substitution for were in a fairly colloquial style to which many educated users object, but the meaning remains the same - hypothetical and unreal. For your reference only: in linguistic terms, the opposition 'was/were', where the first member is weak and the second strong, undergoes neutralisation so that the marked element 'were' is substituted by the unmarked 'was'; the sense conveyed, though, remains the same; therefore, it is not practical to assert that 'an event may take place' in this context. Cf:

I would if I was you. <colloquial, but the meaning coincides with that of the second example>

I would if I were you.
BillJThis is normally done by using should (with the 1st person) or would (with the others)
- despite the fact that some British English speakers maintain a distinction between would and should in the main clause parallel to that between will and shall, the modal most commonly used in the matrix clause is would.

Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
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Excuse me, but I teach this stuff in the UK - I don't want a lecture from you, thanks all the same!
My pleasure, BillJ.

Docendo discimus. I am glad that you have accepted my constructive criticism.

Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
Thanks a lot for your help! Good answer.

The discussion I read on conditionals doesn't mention that the second conditional can refer to the present as well as the future???

What about the other two conditionals? Can they also refer to more than one time?

And what is the main way to refer to the present with conditionals?

Thanks a load.
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I'm glad this could be of help, English 1b3!
English 1b3The discussion I read on conditionals doesn't mention that the second conditional can refer to the present as well as the future???
Let me suggest a classification of conditional clauses that I find appropriate:

NEUTRAL TYPE: SAME TENSE IN BOTH CLAUSES:

If the wind blows from the north, this room is very cold.

In such sentences, 'if' resembles 'when'.

TYPE I; PRESENT TENSE IN THE IF-CLAUSE, WILL OR IMPERATIVE IN THE MAIN:

If you park your care here, the police will take it away.

In this type, what is said in the main clause is dependent on something that may not happen, though this 'something' (parking a car, in our case) is assumed by the speaker to be a real possibility. This kind refers only to the moment of speaking.

TYPE II: PAST IN THE IF-CLAUSE, WOULD IN THE MAIN:

If I were younger, I would study Old English.

What is said in the main clause is an imaginary consequence of a non-fact (the fact that one doesn't have a car parked at a particular place). What is said in the conditional clause equally applies to present as well as some other moment in prospect. Therefore, type II conditionals have present and future reference.

TYPE III: PAST PERFECT IN THE IF-CLAUSE, WOULD+PERFECT IN THE MAIN

If you had parked your car there yesterday, they would have towed it away.

Here, what is said in the main clause is now seen as an imaginary consequence of past non-fact - something that did not happen. This one belongs entirely to the past.

MIXED TYPE, USING ANY OTHER SEQUENCE OF TENSES...

I think we can now disregard this group (at least for a while).

Please tell me if you find this information helpful.

Respectfully, Gleb Chebrikoff
TYPE I; PRESENT TENSE IN THE IF-CLAUSE, WILL OR IMPERATIVE IN THE MAIN:

If you park your care here, the police will take it away.

In this type, what is said in the main clause is dependent on something that may not happen, though this 'something' (parking a car, in our case) is assumed by the speaker to be a real possibility. This kind refers only to the moment of speaking.

Everything makes sense, except the above. Every conditionals site I have read states that the first conditional refers to the future, not to the moment of speaking. Can you clarify this, please?
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