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http://mthobby.pcperfect.com/ch601/chconstpages.htm

If these are not correct, why? What do they mean?
1. If my skills in estimating and managing IT projects had have been that bad, I would have fired myself a few times...
2. If my skills in estimating and managing IT projects would have been that bad, I would have fired myself a few times...

Thanks.
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Comments  (Page 5) 
Here's another way of looking at it, Jack. As you say in another place, native speakers use mixed conditionals all the time. In speech, for instance, speakers often change conditional types in mid sentence – not because they want to express a subtle distinction, but because speech is by its nature fragmentary and inconstant.

At other times, you change conditional types in mid sentence because (while speaking) you realize that what you are about to say sounds a little too blunt. Take this example:

1. If the car breaks down on you, you would have to pay for the repair, if you didn't buy the warranty.

If I were a car salesman, I might say this if (after 'breaks down') I suddenly realized that suggesting that the car might break down wasn't a very good idea. I would therefore soften the possibility by switching from a type 1 to a type 2 conditional.

If I were the car buyer, on the other hand, I would 'hear' the softening, but internally correct the sentence to:

2. If the car broke down on you, you would have to pay for the repair, if you didn't buy the warranty.

Or:

3. If the car breaks down on you, you will have to pay for the repair, if you don't buy the warranty.

I would guess that this makes conditionals quite difficult for a person learning English: native or practised speakers are habituated to 'internal translation' of fragmentary or mixed forms, but those learning English can't be sure which form is intended.

MrP
If I were the car buyer, on the other hand, I would 'hear' the softening, but internally correct the sentence.


What about this one? I see them a lot and I don't think it is a mistake, is it? I guess 'would' here is not a past tense right? It is a level of politeness here but it is not a standard right?

[url="http://www.quepublishing.com/articles/article.asp?p=371493&seqNum=2 "]
[/url]
1. If your garage is very small, you would be well advised to hang as much as possible on the walls. (Even though 'would' is here to make the sentence sound less forceful, this is still not a standard type of conditional right? Because it doesn't make sense if I change 'is' to 'were' because if I do, I'm saying that you have a BIG garage? Or if I change 'would' to 'will' I'm saying for a fact that you will be well advised if you have a small garage? So what do I do here to make it a standard? Or do I have to use the mixed conditional here?)

Is this one okay?
2. If I could do this again, I would do it better, I would find a way. (If x, then y, then y? This is a standard conditional right?)

Thanks.
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Hello Jack

1. If your garage is very small, you would be well advised to hang as much as possible on the walls.

'Would' is often used in the main clause, when we want to give advice, or make suggestions. The 'would' in a type 2 conditional denotes 'the unreal'; but the 'would' in an 'advice' conditional (as in #1) denotes 'politeness'. I would call this a type 1 conditional with a modal 'would' in the main clause (see #6 below).

The pattern with this kind of conditional is simple or progressive present tense in the 'if' clause, and a modal verb in the main clause:

2. If you think we're going on holiday this year, you can think again. We just don't have the money.

3. If you're worried about losing your hair, you should take one of these pills.

4. If you want another cake, you should ask.

If you changed 'is' to 'were', and interpreted it as a type 2 conditional –

5. If your garage were very small, you would be well advised to hang as much as possible on the walls.

– it would mean 'if it was the case that your garage was very small, someone would advise you (quite sensibly) to hang as much as possible on the walls'.

If you change 'would' to 'will', the sense of politeness is lost, and the sentence sounds rather stern – almost an order:

6. If your garage is very small, you will be well advised to hang as much as possible on the walls.

It becomes a standard type 1 conditional.

7. If I could do this again, I would do it better, I would find a way.

Yes, a standard type 2 conditional: 'if I were to do this again, I would find a way to do it better'.

Other people may give you different answers, by the way – conditional usage seems to be quite subjective!

MrP
Hello Mr P

While reading past postings in this thread I came across a question given by [url="http://www.EnglishForward.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=70746&PageIndex=2 "]Jack 112[/url].
Which one is correct.
1. I guess I would need another engine if I wanted to try and see if my engine is the problem or not?
2. I guess I would need another engine if I wanted to try and see if my engine was the problem or not?

You answered you would choose #2. But my choice is rather #1. My thought is like this;

The clause "if my engine is/was ..." is an indirect interrogative clause as JC righteously pointed out.
And (in subjunctive mood) is the current/present state of the engine, isn't it?

If it is the case, I think, the choice should be "if my engine is" (though I might say rather:"I would need another engine if I tried to see whether my engine has any problem")

My choice is wrong?

paco
Hello Paco

I find these forms natural (taking the 2nd 'if' as whether, as CJ suggests):

1a. If I want to know whether my engine is the problem or not, I need/am going to need another engine (type 1 – the engine is playing up).

1b. If I want to know whether my engine was the problem or not, I need/am going to need another engine (type 1 – the engine played up last night).

2. If I wanted to know whether my engine was the problem or not, I would need another engine (type 2).

These ones hurt my synapses:

3. If I wanted to know whether my engine is the problem or not, I would need another engine (type 2, with embedded type-1-style indirect interrogative clause).

4. If I wanted to know whether my engine is the problem or not, I need another engine (type 2 in if-clause, with embedded type-1-style indirect interrogative clause, jumping to type 1 in main clause).

If I hear sentences like #3 and #4, I always feel the speaker has started with a type 2, had a sudden doubt at the crossroads of 'was' and 'is', and then jumped tracks either momentarily (#3) or for good (#4).

(It could simply be that I feel unconscious comfort where other people feel conscious discomfort, of course.)

Sometimes too you have this kind of conversation with native speakers – if someone is writing a letter, for example:

A: "I wanted to know whether my engine SOMETHING the problem or not." What do I put here – IS or WAS?
B: WAS.
A: That's what I thought at first. But then I looked at it again, and thought, surely we're talking about the present state of the engine. So wouldn't WAS be misleading?

In other words, the native speaker has suddenly become conscious of the apparent illogic of the tense change in indirect questions (and other kinds of reported speech). He may make the change intuitively a dozen times a day, without thinking about it; but when he writes it down, it suddenly seems strange.

The odd thing is, it's very difficult to persuade someone to trust intuition, once doubt has struck. The conversation above is most likely to end:

B: {Explanation of tense change in indirect questions.}
A: Well, you're probably right. That's what I thought it should be at first. But I think I'll put IS, just to make it absolutely clear.

(I wonder if anyone has ever studied 'what speakers feel they should have said, but didn't'.)

MrP
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Hello Mr P

Thank you for the detailed answer. I really appreciate it. Choice of tense of an interrogative clause embedded in an unreal protasis is so intrigued an issue that, as far as I have ever read, no grammar book seems to deal with. And, because the sentence structure is such a messy one, no hearer would argue against it no matter which one the speaker says, IT or WAS. I think you would be right. It seems more natural for most native speakers to be 'B' in your dialogue, choosing WAS under the influence of the preceding WANTED. But how about in the case of writers or readers? I feel some people could be 'A' in writing or reading if that person were dim-witted and square-toed like me.

paco
Your toes look pretty sharp and nimble to me, Paco!

I think doubt often does arise, for native speakers, when they're using this structure in written English. I've had conversations like the one above on a number of occasions, when someone has suddenly doubted their own intuition while writing a document of some kind, and asked for a second opinion.

It may even vary from dialect to dialect: the WAS tendency seems quite strong among BrE speakers, regardless of level of education, etc. But it may be different in AmE, or South African English, or Australian.

In one sense, it's interesting that anyone should ever have used the past tense, in these structures, for an embedded interrogative clause where the action was unfinished.

I doubt very much whether callous grammarians were rounding up native speakers in the 11th and 12th centuries, and forcing them to use a past tense on pain of extra homework. So how did the WAS tendency arise in the first place?

MrP