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Hi,

1. Let us say this was in quotation marks. How would you validate the use of the underlined tense?

The people who built houses; their walls have crumbled, as if they had never been!

2. TWO more questions:

Does 'as if' in normal sentential situations mean the same as 'if', like here.

He splurged as if he had unlimited amount of money. -- this wouldn't be a good example to confirm my argument but this would be good though.
He would splurge as if he had unlimited amount of money. -- no. 2 conditional?

I meant to ask you this. Could we have the modal word 'would' in the if-clause? I think 'would' has a sense of (conditional??) past, so this would be good.
If you would bring cake, I would bring cola to the party.
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You're confusing, your 1, 2, questions aren't clear. Reformulate.
> Does 'as if' in normal sentential situations mean the same as 'if'
No.
>If you would bring cake, I would bring cola to the party.
Not good. Change to something else, say:

If you brought cake, I would bring cola to the party.
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"As if" and "if" are not the same.

As if is used when something is contrary to fact.

You talk about him as if you had known him. You talk about him as though you had known him. You talk about him and sound like a person who knew him. However, I know that you did not know him.
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AnonymousThe people who built houses; their walls have crumbled, as if they had never been!

... as if they had never existed. The walls have crumbled to nothing. It looks the same as it would look if no one had ever lived there.
AnonymousHe splurged as if he had an unlimited amount of money.
This is not the same as: He splurged if he had an unlimited amount of money.
So if and as if are not the same in meaning. No.
AnonymousIf you would bring cake, I would bring cola to the party.
This is not the usual conditional pattern, but it's just barely possible as "bargaining" will or would.
CJ