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This is my sentence:

1) In his letter, written between the 22nd and 28th of October 1885, I. D. Wilson mentioned Mrs. Beard who had promised to take care of the old Mrs. Wilson if she came to enjoy with her son that wonderful creation of the young architect.

2) ... if she would come ...

3) ... had she come / if she had come ...

I am not sure especially about that "if she came". I do not know if it is the right choice. I have thought of two other alternatives (2 and 3) but I am also unsure about them.

What is the right form of the sentence?

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  • or should she come / if she should come
    – TimR
    Mar 9, 2017 at 21:43
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    I'm not sure what you mean by "with her son" ... "come with her son to enjoy" or "come to enjoy with her son". Is she accompanying her son on a trip or meeting her son where he is?
    – TimR
    Mar 9, 2017 at 21:46
  • 1) Come together with her son by train. I. D. Wilson and his mother were invited to come together by train and admire a new building. The mother was old and Mrs. Beard who lived close to that new building had promised to take care of Mrs. Wilson for a few days. 2) Does "should" work well with "if"? If I have no other answer I will select "should she come".
    – Simplex11
    Mar 9, 2017 at 22:12
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    Either will do: should she come with her son to enjoy or if she should come with her son to enjoy. Modal should there expresses possibility and is thus not anchored to a particular tense. if she came is not incorrect by any means, but should works better with your style, IMO.
    – TimR
    Mar 9, 2017 at 22:21

1 Answer 1

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What did Mrs. Beard say?

  • If she said "I promise to take care of Mrs. Wilson if she and her son come ...", you want

    ... had promised to take care of old Mrs. Wilson if she and her son came ...

  • If she said "I promise to take care of Mrs. Wilson if she and her son will come ...", you want

    ... had promised to take care of old Mrs. Wilson if she and her son would come ...

An indicative promise has subsequent reference, as both of these do (the will in the second version adds a 'volitive' sense, that Mrs. Wilson and her son are willing to come), and ordinarily its condition does, too: it's hard to imagine Mrs. Wilson saying "I promise to take care of her if she has come", making the promise contingent on a prior event, except in the unusual case where it was unclear whether or not Mrs. Wilson had come.

Consequently it's very unlikely that a conditional would take the form if she ... had come.

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  • I do not know exactly what Mrs. Beard said but it was likely: "I promise to take care of Mrs. Wilson if she and her son come". What I know for sure is that Mrs. Wilson never came. I. D. Wilson visited that building alone.
    – Simplex11
    Mar 10, 2017 at 0:32

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