2

second conditional

1) If I were more attentive I would get a better mark now (first part- yesterday; second- current time)

third conditional

2) If I had been more attentive I would have had a better mark yesterday (first part- yesterday; second- yesterday)

mixed e.g.

3) If I had been more attentive I would get a better mark now (first part- yesterday; second- current time)

Thank you

7
  • 1
    You can't do #3. I am a native speaker, but I don't know how to explain why. You can say "If I had been more attentive I would have a better mark now.", but you can't mix the way you did. Sorry I don't have a more coherent explanation for you!
    – Ben I.
    Mar 26 '17 at 0:24
  • @Choirbean Thanks. As far as I understand: with the third one the only problem is the word 'get'; I should use 'have' instead of 'get'. Is it right or you mistyped some words?
    – Max
    Mar 26 '17 at 0:35
  • @Choirbean I did it (used 'get' instead of 'have') in order to distinguish auxiliary verb (have) from the main verb (have)
    – Max
    Mar 26 '17 at 0:41
  • 2
    Yes, you should have used "have", or if you wanted "get", you would say "be getting". *If I had been more attentive, I would be getting a better mark now."
    – Ben I.
    Mar 26 '17 at 6:43
  • More context, please.
    – user3395
    Jun 5 '17 at 14:20
2
+50

This is a good question because the issues with your sentences are subtle and hard to articulate. TL;DR your examples are indeed slightly odd, but not because of the time itself.


The subjunctive past can indeed be completed with reference to the present:

If I were braver (in general), I would be standing on that bridge right now.

The pluperfect can, too:

If I had been braver (when I made some particular choice that affects my present situation), I would be standing on that bridge right now.

The pluperfect can also be completed with reference to the past:

If I had been braver, I would have been standing on that bridge yesterday.


The slight oddity in sentences (1) and (3), I believe, is the lack of a progressive element. In each of the above examples, I used either the conditional progressive or the conditional past progressive. That said, this seems to be a semantic requirement, not a grammatical requirement.

This also explains @Ben I.'s feeling about "I would get a better mark", with which I fully agree. To "get a mark" is a one-time event. Hence, you can either say you "would be getting a better mark" or "would get better marks", both of which stretch that action out over a period of time.

Similarly, a verb that implies a period of time is perfectly okay in simple present:

If I were more attractive, I would receive more compliments.

Why do these conditions appear to demand a period of time? I suspect it has to do with the ability to describe something happening in the present time. You can't say you "would get a better mark" at the same time that it's happening.


It's worth noting that both the subjunctive past and the pluperfect be completed with a conditional perfect (for the same reason, I think):

If I were braver, I would have stood on that bridge yesterday.

If I had been braver, I would have stood on that bridge yesterday.

The event is in the past and can be referred to with a perfective at the time of utterance.

Your second sentence is thus okay, except that in North American English, at least, one doesn't "have" an individual mark. Hence, this is fine:

If I had been more attentive I would have gotten a better mark yesterday.

(You can "have" a grade in a course, but not a mark on an assignment or test.)


Again for the same reason, you can also make reference to a hypothetical event using the plain old conditional to complete these phrases.

If it were sunny out, I would go to the beach. (But it isn't, so I won't.)

If he were more honest, he would get my vote.

0

I used to teach English as a second language.

#1 is grammatically correct but not standard usage. You can refer to the present but most people would say, "If I were more attentive I would get better marks". The subjunctive "were" makes it a more general statement than just the particular mark in question.

#2 is correct and more standard, the time references agree.

#3 is incorrect, the tenses are inconsistent.

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