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For example, were all politicians to fully disclose every personal foibles, character flaw, and detail concerning personal life, few honest politicians would ever by elected.

Source: GRE Answers to the Real Essay Questions

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    This sentence is not grammatical; it has at least four major errors. Have you transcribed it correctly? – StoneyB Nov 2 '16 at 17:39
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    If all politicians did (A), (B), and (C), (D) would not happen. – Andrew Nov 2 '16 at 17:48
  • I haven't transcribed it myself, i have just copied it for a source. I could sense that there is some connection between 'were','to' and 'would' , but i couldnt figure out meaning. Also i cant recognise those errors you mentioned.Could you please elaborate. – Nil Kulkarni Nov 2 '16 at 17:51
  • The writer is getting confused on the semantic front. If all politicians fully disclosed everything, that implies all politicians would be honest. But if few [honest] politicians then got elected, what would we call the people we did elect? We couldn't call them dishonest politicians, since we're hypothesising a situation where such people don't exist. – FumbleFingers Nov 2 '16 at 18:03
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    Errors: 1) every requires singular foible, not plural foibles 2) all politicians do not have a single personal life between them--life should be lives 3) personal lives requires a determiner, presumably their 4) ever by elected is meaningless--this should be ever be elected – StoneyB Nov 2 '16 at 18:50
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The sentence could be rewritten as

"If all politicians were to fully disclose every personal foibles, character flaw, and detail concerning personal life, (then) few honest politicians would ever be elected"

It's a way to create an if-then sentence without actually saying either of those words.

Another example is "Had I known before that it would be this cold, I would have brought a jacket."

That sentence means the exact same thing as "If I had known before that it would be this cold, (then) I would have brought a jacket."

It's important to note that you can only start this sentence structure with an auxiliary verb (i.e. you can't say "Knew I before that it would be this cold")

  • thanks for reply. Is following similar to the sentence given above "Were it not for you the boy would be drowned." – Nil Kulkarni Nov 2 '16 at 17:59
  • That's the main idea. A couple of things I would change in your sentence are placing a comma after "you" and changing "be" to "have". "Would be drowned" is grammatically correct, but it is not the correct wording for this meaning. – williamlue929 Nov 2 '16 at 18:07
  • The citation is copied correctly now. – Mari-Lou A Nov 2 '16 at 18:07
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If every politician was supposed to tell the public every small shortcoming/flaw, and every detail of their personal life, few politicians could win an election by being honest.

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