3

I was reading my English book when I suddenly read this sentence: "If I had a digital camera, I would have taken some pictures".

If the sentence isn't wrong, can someone explain which conditional type this is? enter image description here

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Feb 24 '17 at 12:41

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

3

Conditionals:

"If I had a digital camera, I would have taken some pictures" is an example of the so-called 'mixed conditional'.

In this type of conditional, we use the past perfect or the simple past in the if clause and the present conditional or the perfect conditional in the main clause.

"If I had a digital camera, I would have taken some pictures". (= I did not have a digital camera, so I could not take any photos).

If you weren't afraid of spiders, you would have picked it up and put it outside.

  • But why is the if clause in the past tense?! Shouldn't it be in past perfect? – Marceline Feb 24 '17 at 12:57
2

If I had a digital camera, I would have taken some pictures.

If the situation expressed in the protasis is understood as permanent (or relatively so), i.e. it relates to past and present time and is ongoing, then it is possible to use a modal preterite like "had", while using the perfect in the apodosis.

Examples like If Ed spoke French, he would have translated the letter for you and If I enjoyed Shakespeare, I would have gone with you are fine.

So if you didn't have a digital camera at the time when you might have taken some pictures, and that situation still holds at the time of writing, then your example is fine.

1

The if clause is in the past simple tense because it speaks of a true/false moment, a watershed event: I had a camera / I had no camera. In this case, I had no camera, signaled by the opening word if. The sentence says that the reason I did not take pictures is directly due to my state of 'no camera.'

Without a camera, how could I take even a single picture? I could not. However, if I had a camera (one switch from no to yes), I would then have been able to take not just one picture, but many. That opportunity would last over a long period, when I would have taken many pictures (as a long process).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.