I have an example in an exercise book and I'm completely stuck on which time should be used there.

Here is the example:

  • If I knew how it worked I could help you.

I'm interested in the words knew and worked. If the Past Indefinite is used in the Conditionals, it shows that the action relates to the present and here is the question why there is the word "worked" in the sentence but not "work" is used? I would have written it in the following way:

  • If I knew how it works I could help you.

I would have used the word "worked" if I have had the following sentence:

  • If I had knew how it worked I could have helped you.

Will you point out some other mistakes if I had made.

1 Answer 1


The mistake you're making is very typical for many Russian native-speakers because, indeed, that's the way we would put the phrase in Russian. However, English has its own rules and one of them is Tense Agreement, which is explained in any decent book on English Grammar. Have a look here, for example (in Russian): Согласование времён

By the way, your second variant is plain wrong - "I had knew" is ungrammatical.

  • Notwithstanding the rule, I don't think many native speakers would object to "If I knew how it works I could help you".
    – Stuart F
    Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 17:05

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