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Which of the following sentences is correct?



If I knew Mary was coming, I would have gone to the the airport to welcome her.

If I had known Mary was coming, I would have gone to the the airport to welcome her.
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Comments  (Page 2) 
I know how mixed conditionals work. For instance, I can easily understand and explain this structures

If I had won the lottery, I would be rich

(3rd + 2nd)

and

If I didn't trust her, I wouldn't have told her the whole story

(2nd + 3rd)

But

If I knew Mary was coming, I would have gone to the the airport to welcome her

doesn't make sense to me.

If I knew should be an unreal/unlikely situation in the present/always, shouldn't it?, and I would have gone to the the airport is an unreal fact in the past.

Now, how could I have picked her at the airport (in the past) if only now do I know that she's coming? Or does it mean that I always know she's coming? But Marius (who is highly reliable, as far as I can judge from his posts) says it's ok.

Please, native speakers, tell me if/where I am wrong and if/why this mysterious (for me!) sentence is fine for you.
From the BBC:

BBC NEWS | England | Soldier gun threat 'seen as joke'

He said: "If I knew he was serious I would have gone and told someone but I thought he was just joking around. I thought he was just being his normal self."

And this is from The Atlantic:

If I knew where he was gonna go, I would have been on him like white
on rice.
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200509/pappu/3

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within quotation marks Emotion: wink

who is quoted?
Inchoateknowledgewithin quotation marks Emotion: wink

who is quoted?
Look at the links.
Thank you, Marius, for your quotations.

However, I can't still understand if it's grammatically correct or if it's a substandard, but idiomatic and colloquially acceptable, mixed conditional.
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Hi Tanit,

The whole mystery behind these mixed conditionals is merely context from the real life situation.

As you probably know the Past Perfect is a last resort for native speakers in conversation as it can usually be avoided by using the Past Simple linked to the fact that everyone involved is aware of the time-frame we are talking about.

If I knew she was coming (at that time in the past) I would have gone (then).

Perhaps this example using the Past Perfect/Past Simple will make it clearer.

"We arrived late because our plane had been delayed" versus "We arrived late because our plane was delayed"

Now most grammar books usually only accept the first sentence as being 'correct'.

However, in speech there is nothing wrong with the second either as it is clear from the context (i.e. we are all standing at the airport, etc) that as we have just arrived, our plane must have been delayed before the 'arriving' part.

These don't lend themselves to written English very well as of course without specific context there could be a misunderstanding.

That's why although we use mixed conditionals frequently in contextualised speech face-to-face, when people write they'll revert to one of the standard written acceptable conditionals.

Remember though that these four written forms do not convey the same connotation.

Consider the following:

Standard First Conditional: If she comes, I'll leave...

Sounds fairly neutral and is not emotional charged.

Alternate First Conditional: If she's coming, I'm leaving!

Suddenly we have the feeling that the speaker is much more emotional and conveying a sense of annoyance or anger.

Remember... It's all about context and that's why they're more frequent when there is context - i.e. a natural conversation rather than a decontextualised grammar activity.

Hope that helps...
Hopefully to bring some levity to this discussion, there's a similar sentence in a song that many of us in the States grew up singing.
  • TANIT'S EXAMPLE: "If I knew Mary was coming, I would have gone to the airport..."
  • SONG IN THE STATES: "If I knew you were coming, I'da baked a cake, baked a cake, baked a cake..." where "I'da" is short (slang) for "I would have".
Click here to listen to the song .

Now just don't ask me to translate "How cha dooooooooo!" Emotion: big smile
Phoenix PRHopefully to bring some levity to this discussion, there's a similar sentence in a song that many of us in the States grew up singing.

  • TANIT'S EXAMPLE: "If I knew Mary was coming, I would have gone to the airport..."
  • SONG IN THE STATES: "If I knew you were coming, I'da baked a cake, baked a cake, baked a cake..." where "I'da" is short (slang) for "I would have".


  • Click here to listen to the song .

    Now just don't ask me to translate "How cha dooooooooo!" Emotion: big smile

    Are lyrics of songs always standard English?

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Thank you, Tam, for the effort you made to try to let me understand this structure.

However ...
Tam SadekPerhaps this example using the Past Perfect/Past Simple will make it clearer. "We arrived late because our plane had been delayed" versus "We arrived late because our plane was delayed" Now most grammar books usually only accept the first sentence as being 'correct'. However, in speech there is nothing wrong with the second either as it is clear from the context (i.e. we are all standing at the airport, etc) that as we have just arrived, our plane must have been delayed before the 'arriving' part. These don't lend themselves to written English very well as of course without specific context there could be a misunderstanding.


The use of Past Simple instead of Past Perfect is quite common, explained also in many grammar books and usually accepted if the sequence is clear. I don't find anything wrong in it, but I don't think it can be applied to YL's first sentence (conditional sentences have their own rules, don't they?).
Tam SadekThat's why although we use mixed conditionals frequently in contextualised speech face-to-face, when people write they'll revert to one of the standard written acceptable conditionals. Remember though that these four written forms do not convey the same connotation. Consider the following: Standard First Conditional: If she comes, I'll leave... Sounds fairly neutral and is not emotional charged. Alternate First Conditional: If she's coming, I'm leaving! Suddenly we have the feeling that the speaker is much more emotional and conveying a sense of annoyance or anger. Remember... It's all about context and that's why they're more frequent when there is context - i.e. a natural conversation rather than a decontextualised grammar activity. Hope that helps...

Does your sentence imply that mixed conditionals are unaccettable in standard written English? I don't think so! Some structures, such as the ones in my previous post:

If I had won the lottery, I would be rich

If I didn't trust her, I wouldn't have told her the whole story (*)

would be considered fine in English written tests (both Cambridge and TOEFL) and in formal academic writing (if we eliminate contractions in the second one).

Can I infer from your post that the original stentence:

If I knew Mary was coming, I would have gone to the the airport to welcome her

is ok for you only in colloquial speech, but ungrammatical and unaccettable in standard written English?

Any replies, comments, suggestions ... would be highly appreciated!

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(*) Here Past Simple deoesn't replace Past Perfect! I told her the whole story because I trusted her and I still trust her.
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