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Hello,
Please can someone help me understand the use of "were to" in these sentences ?

- Is "were to" in all these sentences mean the same ?what is its real meaning and when should it be used ?.
- Is it correct to say that (in the 1st and 2nd sentences),the past verb form suggests that the situation is less probable or imaginary ?,and the present verb form suggests that the situation is possible ?.

According to http://www.englishpage.com/conditional/wereto.html :

1- If Nathan were to be my boss, this job would be intolerable.( used in present).Can I paraphrase this sentence by saying : If Nathan is /was my boss, this job will /would be intolerable.
2-If I were to lose my job next year, I would probably not find a new one quickly.(used in the future).Can I paraphrase this sentence by saying : If I lose/ lost my job next year, I will / would probably not find a new one quickly.
3-If the fire were to have destroyed the building, it would have been a tragic cultural loss.(used in the past).Can I paraphrase this sentence by saying : If the fire had destroyed the building,it would have been a tragic cultural loss.

PS I would really appreciate an explanation from a native or an expert to avoid many posts.
Thanks in advance
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Comments  
everlastinghope Does "were to" in all these sentences mean the same ?what is its real meaning and when should it be used ?.
Hello, Everlastinghope:

I found something that may interest you. (It is in the 1983 edition of Mesdames Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman's wonderful The Grammar Book.)

Page 344:

Hypothetical conditionals can refer to the future as well as the present:

present: If Joe had the time, he would go to Mexico.
future: If Joe were to have time, he would go to Mexico.

*****

Sometimes the difference between using a future conditional and a hypothetical conditional is a matter of speaker

choice:

future: If it rains, I will stay home.
hypothetical: If it were to rain, I would stay home. / If it should rain, I would stay home.

*****

And Professor Quirk in his famous (and huge!) book discusses it (please check the index for the page number. I have the 1985 edition. Pages 142 - 143, 1093 - 1094).

Here's just a sample of what he (and his colleagues!) writes:

Two ways of expressing future hypothetical conditions are occasionally used in formal contexts. They have overtones of

tentativeness:

If it was/ were to rain, the ropes would snap.

And here is something very elegant: Inversion may occur "in a somewhat literary style with the subjunctive were."

Were it to reveal its secrets, that house would collapse in shame.
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James MHypothetical conditionals can refer to the future as well as the present:present: If Joe had the time, he would go to Mexico.future: If Joe were to have time, he would go to Mexico.
In the two first examples I wrote above ,"were to" is used ion both present as well as future and both start with "if ...were to"Not really much difference but how should I know if by the sentence,the speaker talks about present or future ?.

Thanks for explaining and giving examples of future and hypothetical conditionals.Emotion: yes
Also I didn't know that "inversion" exists in this kind of sentences,many thanks;they're really helpful.
Great question.

I shall be waiting along with you for someone to answer it.
everlastinghop;

The web site you quoted explains this very well. I'll elaborate a little bit

Context:
1)

If Nathan were to be my boss, this job would be intolerable. I would have to quit my job, and live with my parents while I look for a new job.

Nathan were my boss, this job would be intolerable. But I would grit my teeth, and look for something else. John is in another department, and I would quietly ask him for a transfer.

2)
If I were to lose my job next year, I would probably not find a new one quickly:
I have no savings and live paycheck-to-paycheck. I could not pay my rent. I would have to live in a homeless shelter and get my food from the church's soup kitchen.

If I l lost my job next year, I will / would probably not find a new one quickly. But I am prepared. I have enough money saved up to live for a year, and my car is paid for.

3)
This is the same idea, but for something that did not happen in the past.

If Houston were to have been hit by a hurricane like Katrina in 2005, the whole Oil and Gas industry in the US would have been devastated. The US economy would have collapsed, and the whole world would have been affected.
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Hello, Everlastinghope:

May I add my two cents to Alphecca Stars' excellent explanation?

First, I found this statement from Otto Jespersen, one of the greatest grammarians on the English language:

Were to indicates merely a vague possibility in the future.

*****

Second, I stumbled across a website explanation that really helped me. I think that if you read it, you will be as

delighted as I was. I learned so much from it about the so-called "future subjunctive." I am a new member. I learned

today that links are disabled until the moderators can check on them. But I am too stupid to link. So I am going to tell

you the name of a website to google. Please type these exact words into the Google search. (P.S. I understand that

the moderators may delete the following words until they have time to check out the website as being legitimate.)

Subjunctive Mood Grammar Grammarist Feb 21 2011

*****

That website reminded me that I could say either:

"If I were to become president in 2020, I would change many things" or I could use plainer English and just

say "If I become president in 2020, I will change many things."
James M "If I become president in 2020, I will change many things."
The candidate would use this version, because he wants to be assertive and positive, but not overconfident.
James MWere to indicates merely a vague possibility in the future.
Upon reflection, the use of the two different forms are not all that much different from each other.
"were to" is not heard as much as the other form, and perhaps indicates something more speculative.
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