In a live debate on a news channel with English subtitle.I saw this sentence when a person(named Ram) was pointing to another person(named Sam) by saying this "you talk as if you were a child"

1.Sir my question is do this sentence above denote a report by the verb "talk" made a few seconds ago? and why is present simple "talk" here not present continuous "are talking"?

2.One more question why past tense "you were a child" It should be "you are a child"?

Sir Please get me clear I am confused.

3 Answers 3


In this case Talk is timeless. He wants you to forget time, and think about the style, or the understanding of the person being described.

Were in this case is hypothetical, not a past tense. It used to be described as subjunctive, because in some languages there is a separate verb form for imaginary, or supposed events. In formal English "If I was a rich man, ...." becomes "If I were a rich man."

  • I understand the meaning of "you were a child" as hypothetical. I am still confused because "talk" verb should be in past form such as "if you were a child,you would talk/you would be able to talk". why "talk" verb is timeless?Can you discuss the matter more in detail? Nov 16, 2016 at 17:28

Answering your second point.

In the sentence "You talk as if you were a child", the person talking is not talking to a child. Then, the "if" refers to something that is definitely false, and the speaker knows this is false. This is why the past tense is used.

The most common example is If I were you.

Another example of this, to clarify :
@Indranil Bar, If you were an bird, you would be able to fly.

  • 1
    I don't think it's helpful to talk about this as "wrong", because somebody might take this to mean "grammatically wrong". The point is that it is a counterfactual condition, one that does not actually hold, but is being advanced hypothetically.
    – Colin Fine
    Nov 16, 2016 at 16:59

Using the present progressive "are talking" would mean that it's purely happening in that moment. It would be referring to the last statement the other person made and nothing else.

"Talk", on the other hand, is more general. It's not referring to a specific instance so much as the overall way the person speaks. It's referring to the past and present.

For example:

"You run fast" vs. "You are running fast"

You might say the first to compliment a runner. You know he has a history of being fast and are describing the way he runs in general.

The second would only make sense if the person was running in that moment. And it doesn't describe his past running, only this single moment of running.

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