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She talks to her cat as if she thought it understood her.

vs.

She talks to her cat as if she thinks it understands her.

Which of these is preferable and why? Since, in this case, the simple present form of talk identifies a habitual action, I instinctively want to make the rest of the verbs in the sentence consistent with this. Should I be switching to the subjunctive regardless? How about in these other cases:

She talks to her cat as if she thought it understood what she says.

vs.

She talks to her cat as if she thinks it understands what she says.

(The first one sounds awkward to me.)

She talks to her cat as if it understood her.

vs.

She talks to her cat as if it understands her.

BTW, how exactly are you supposed to finish interrogatives that lead into example sentences (e.g. "How about in these other cases:")? Should I be using a question mark or a colon? If I use a colon, do I have to finish the last example sentence with a question mark or anything like that?

Always grateful for your help. Emotion: smile
Comments  
Ditch: It is important to grasp that grammar is there not to constrain a person, but to express his perception of a situation. Language is ego-centric. So, what is my perspective when I say:
She talks to her cat as if she thinks it understood her/what she says.
Grammatically, this is quite correct. BUT -this form indicates that I think it is really nonsense: the cat does not understand her.
She talks to her cat as if it understands her.
I could be observing an instance of her talking to her cat, and say this to another person. Using this form, I am looking at the situation through HER eyes: she really believes it, and her whole manner in talking to the cat is as if the cat is taking it all in!

A sentence may appear to be a question, since it is asking for something; but
"How about in these cases:" is equivalent to writing, "OK, so now, let's discuss these cases" - that is, more a statement shifting attention to what you then write.

I'm happy to discuss the actual uses of tenses, and their differences, if you have any uncertainties.
Thank you, Terryexpress.

She talks to her cat as if it understands her.

What if it isn't an observation pertaining to a single instance? What if the speaker is telling someone about a habit the woman has? In that case, should I definitely be switching to simple past? Or can this phrasing work just as well to convey that it's something she does habitually and that I, the speaker, don't believe that her cat can understand her? Mostly, it's this one that throws me:

She talks to her cat as if she thinks it understood what she says. (I mean it so that the speaker is relating a habit the woman has rather than something that's happening in front of him.)

To me, the sudden jump to simple past among all the simple present verbs feels awkward. It makes me want to put understood in simple present as well. But I still mean for the statement to convey the speaker's incredulity (the "I think it's nonsense" part). If this is my aim, should I stick with understood?

Thanks very much.
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Also, thank you for your explanation about the colon or question mark issue. Very clear! Emotion: smile
Terryxpress
She talks to her cat as if she thinks it understood her/what she says.

Grammatically, this is quite correct. BUT -this form indicates that I think it is really nonsense: the cat does not understand her.


Are you sure this is a correct sentence?

Regarding the construction 'as if,' the past subjunctive is generally in the subsequent verb, not the verb after that. Can you explain the subjunctive and tenses used in this sentence please?
It is.

Firstly, the use of Present Tense here indicates that it IS a habit (Universal truth) - the talked to it 'yesterday', 'today', and will do 'tomorrow'. A specific instance would be indicated as, "She is talking to her cat."
Similarly, '...she thinks = she believes : she did yesterday, does still , and will continue to believe.

Now, note the sentence says "...she thinks'...so to jump to 'undertood' is to jump to what I think and NOT what she thinks!

compare: "She talks to her/that cat as if it understood her!"
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I understand, thanks.

I'm just use to using the subjunctive for particular structures, rather than looking for the actual verb that expresses something hypothetical or unreal.

What about these tenses and moods which others tend to struggle dealing with? Correct?

She walked home as if she thought the party was over.

She is walking home, as if she thought the party is over.

And what about this one?

It is as if you had to give an interview after you lost/lose.

Thank you

Terryxpress
Now, note the sentence says "...she thinks'...so to jump to 'undertood' is to jump to what I think and NOT what she thinks!

Ah! That's what's bugging me about it. Thank you. : )