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Hi all,

is there any reason why we use past tense for unreal conditionals?

"If i studied more, I would be smarter."

I'm thinking, since it hasn't happened, it can't be in the present. But since it hasn't happened yet, there's a possiblity it could still happen in the future. So, why do we use the past tense and not the future tense?

"If i will study more, I would be smarter."

Thanks!
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Is there any reason why we use past tense for unreal conditionals?

Tradition, I guess.

Your sentence should read

If I study more I will be smarter. (the action in the if clause takes place first)

Will is unusual in the condition clause but there are exceptions

If going to the gym will help, I'll start tomorrow. (will is ok here because the action in the if clause takes place after that in the main clause.)
Comments  
Hello, Baraha

The Past Simple tense here is used to express not past time, but a hypothetical situation. It's not in the future, because it not clear at all whether you will study more or not.

You can use the Future Simple in order to express this thought in a more compelling way:

«If I study more I will be smarter» (and I think I have to)

Compare:
«If I studied more I would be smarter» (but I don't think I can collect enough courage to do it)

Anton
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 Ivanhr's reply was promoted to an answer.
Using another tense form creates distance. In this case, the odds of something happening.
I guess that English speakers use "studied" in "I studied hard last night" and "If I studied harder (I don't), I would get (I don't) better marks" because English simply lacks -- at the present time -- two different forms.

Since everyone learning English knows at least two languages, s/he knows that this is not the situation in some other languages. I am currently studying a language in which you use X for the past of, for example, "ask," but you use Y for the unreal. Thus, no confusion.

Perhaps someone acquainted with the history of the English language can tell us whether or not the language in the far past ever had one form for the past and one form for the unreal.
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