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 4) 
Tam SadekAnd I'd like to believe that the Flat Earth Society is correct, but it's not! By all means accept the Elementary/Intermediate English coursebook point of view, rather than what is really true. However, bear in mind that this limited view of conditional structures is not correct and as soon as you study at the Upper Intermediate level or above, even the coursebooks that you use will tell you about mixed conditionals. Mixed conditionals are not a secret, they just don't sit happily with people who prefer the 'Grammar McNugget' ideas of Pedagogical English Language Grammar Teaching and like things in black or white rather than what is actually true. I'm surprised that people seem to be ignoring the real grammar of English in favour of Intermediate Level Pedagogical Grammar. Mind you, as the old saying goes 'Horses for courses...'
Your answer is pretty harsh. Are you sure I deserved it?

As a non native speaker who is constantly putting a lot of effort in order to improve her English, I often wonder if what I hear and read is correct, if I could/should use a particular structure, or if I'd better understand the meaning and, at the same time, avoid to copy someone else's mistakes.

Your answer simply doesn't help me in doing this, because it confuses me.

But maybe it is only my fault.
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Sorry if it sounded harsh Tanit... I didn't mean to!

The point I was trying to make is that when people learn English they are given a lot of 'rules' which are actually not true!

I do not adhere to Pedagogical Grammar done in this way as although it may help the teacher get through a class today, it doesn't help the learner tomorrow...

I've seen too many students fail to progress beyond the 'intermediate plateau' mainly because they cannot 'unlearn' the 'wrong rules' they were given at lower levels...

I see no use in 'lying' to students, unlike many coursebook writers, as it only leads to confusion at later stages in the journey to understanding English.

The 'Four Conditional' myth is one of them. In fact many grammarians have moved away from this, and now argue that there are only 'two main divisions' - Real and Unreal, which in themselves have multiple grammatical forms.

It's ironic that things often classed as 'errors' or 'wrong' by coursebooks at elementary/intermediate level are fully acceptable after that stage...

Haven't you noticed that for every 'rule' you are given in English there seems to be a multitude of exceptions? Maybe, it is the 'rule' that is wrong in the first place...
Looking at the exchange between Tanit and Tam Sadek I see an old problem.
Inevitably in the early stages of a student's learning we explain simplified rules. We can't possibly explain all the myriad subtleties and exceptions right from the first lesson. What students are after is something that they can grasp and use in a lot of common situations and I can understand Tanit's perplexity if every rule is surrounded by a furious debate presenting an infinity of exceptions.
Certainly text-book authors should not say that all answers apart from the expected one are wrong and here the teacher should explain: "Yes, that answer is also possible, but here we're studying the most usual form...".
It's like studying science. We learn that the volume of a gas is inversely proportional to the pressure. Later, as we study the behaviour of the gas at very high pressures and low temperatures, we find that this is not precisely so. Does that mean the initial rule was wrong? No, because it's right in many situations and it has helped us to learn something useful.
In languages as in science, reality is infinite. The rules are only an imperfect attempt to describe it.
Thank you all for answering my post.

The problem I see is NOT the contrast beween rules and exceptions, or between grammar and spoken language, BUT, basically, the lack of unanimity on what is correct and what is wrong.

After Marius' and Tam's examples, it was pretty clear that the structure debated here:

if + Past Simple (in the past), would + Past Perfect (consequence in the past)

is actually used. Here is what I asked:
(...) I can't still understand if it's grammatically correct or if it's a substandard, but idiomatic and colloquially acceptable, mixed conditional.

Shouldn't I be confused by the answers? MM said that the sentence is 'misconstructed,' you wrote:
J LewisIf you were there you would have laughed is an "incorrect" mixed conditional because both parts refer to the past.

but other native speakers, possibly teachers, don't see anything wrong in the sentence, and they simply didn't answer my question. Instead, they focused on explaining general failures in grammar books, teaching methods, simplification of the rules, etc. (which could be right, but doesn't answer).

Rebus sic stantibus, I'll assume that: (i) there's a certain number of people who would use this structure even when the if-clause is a condition in the past, (ii) native speakers definitely don't agree on whether the sentence is grammatically correct, and, as a consequence (iii) I'll try to avoid it both in spoken and in written English, unless the if-clause refers to the present or is always true.

You know, just to be on the safe side ... Emotion: wink

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Sorry, I double-posted Emotion: sad

If any of the moderators could delete my "anonymous" post ...
Hi Tanit,

The problem here lies inevitably with the problem of whether or not English Grammar is Prescriptive or Descriptive?

Generally modern English Grammars for native speakers , such as Longman's Grammar of Spoken and Written English (1999), are descriptive and reflect how English is used at 'present'.

From these Descriptive Grammars coursebook writers and Pedagogical Grammar Book writers try to simplified and codify these descriptions into Prescriptive 'Rules'. Herein lies the major problem - they are not so much rules as guidelines. They are not absolutes.

Probably the only native-speakers that believe they are, are newly trained or qualified teachers who aren't sure of aspects of Grammar - I don't think I'm giving away any trade secrets when I say that many newly qualified teachers are usually only a couple of pages ahead of their students when it comes to the 'grammar' on their course. The problem is many schools put newly qualified teachers onto lower levels as their grammar may not be up to dealing with complicated questions of grammar and/or usage.

Unfortunately this coincides with many of these 'guidelines' being misinterpreted as 'rules'. Look closely and you will never see a grammar 'rule' that begins "x is ALWAYS used..." You're most likely to see wording such as: "x is usually/often/generally used..."

The reason being that the Grammar upon which it was based was descriptive, and as such can/could change or that their may be alternatives that are not included (at that moment)...

English isn't a 'dead' language and so aspects of usage are constantly changing and often vary from person to person in level of acceptability. Herein lies the problem as exemplified by this thread; native speakers have different reference points as to what is 'correct'. Is it what they were taught at school themselves? Or what they hear and see around them now? What Michael Swan says? Or Murphy? Or their coursebook?

English is an inclusive language in which many things are possible, and usually are! However, although many constructions are possible, you will hear different native-speaker teachers argue about this based upon their personal experience.

The problem is that native speakers use constructions or collocations which are not easy to teach, or are as yet unmapped or unrecorded as far as reference tomes are concerned...

Take this example:

"The copyright on sound voice recordings may be expanded from 50 years to 95 years."

Sounds like an error? Shouldn't it be "...may be extended from 50 to 95 years" as it's about a time period?

If you were a non-native-speaker, most teachers would probably tell you that you have made an error to use 'expanded' here as it should be 'extended' or 'increased' or something similar...

Only this was from last Sunday's BBC Radio 4's podcast of 'Broadcasting House', and said by the 'educated' native-speaker presenter...

So? Is it still a wrong collocation? I mean... if you can't trust the BBC, who can you trust?

Hope that helps...
I previously mentioned:

If I knew Mary was coming
is in practice used for both present and past times.

If I knew Mary was coming, I would go ot the airport. (present time)
If I knew Mary was coming, I would have gone to the the airport to welcome her.
(past time)

The 2nd usage (for past time) is less covered in the books, but used by many distinguished writers.
That is, including J. K. RowlingEmotion: smile:
Draco Malfoy, who was Snape's favorite student, kept flicking puffer-fish eyes at Ron and Harry, who knew that if they retaliated they would get detention faster than you could say 'unfair'.

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, p. 140
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
knew is not in the if-clause in the Rowling example.
It's the backshift of They know that if they retaliate they will get detention.
Are you sure that's the right example here?
Don't you need They knew that if they retaliated they would have got detention to get the mixed conditional idea?
I'm a little late to enter this thread, but just from the material in the quote box I wasn't able to see the connection. Emotion: sad
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