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From EF (Education First), The type 2 conditional is used, with if clause in simple past and main clause in present conditional or in present continuous conditional, to express an unlikely or hypothetical condition and its probable result; and the time is now or any time.

EF's examples

If the weather wasn't so bad, we would go to the park.

If I was the Queen of England, I would give everyone a chicken.

If you really loved me, you would buy me a diamond ring.

If I knew where she lived, I would go and see her.

I'm confused because--should I use the past tenses of the verbs I'm meaning in the present time and in the future time?

My example

If we were to be together to prove that there's/there was no end, so help me, would hold your hand forever even you're/you were pretend.

What I mean: If we were to be together (right now) to prove that there is no end another way of saying loving forever (not an end that just existed in the past, but end that has existed in the past up until now), so help me (is this correct? An idiom for "I promise," but type 2 conditional says it should be used with present conditional in the main clause. If the idiom were meant for "I would promise," then it's? fine, but it was? not.), would hold your hand forever even you're pretend (even if you're just meant to exist in my imagination, same issue about what to use present tense or past tense).

Also, please answer the mini-questions I've put along the way in typing this question and correct the grammar of my question itself. I want to learn.

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    FWIW, the first example ("If the weather wasn't so bad...") sounds wrong to me, for exactly the reason you say --- the tenses of the two parts don't match. I'd say "If the weather weren't so bad, we'd go to the park"...but I suspect this is colloquial rather than educated speech.
    – The Photon
    May 2, 2017 at 5:38
  • Here's the link of those examples. ef.com/english-resources/english-grammar/type-2-conditional
    – Xyenz
    May 2, 2017 at 5:42
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    I don't claim my version is what you should use on your exam, just that it sounds better to me as a native AmE speaker.
    – The Photon
    May 2, 2017 at 5:43
  • Well, what do you think of my example? Should I use the present tenses?
    – Xyenz
    May 2, 2017 at 5:47
  • If the weather… and where she lived are fine. Don’t you think it’s a giant step from any of them to your poem? Your examples use I/we/you would but what about your poem, please? If you aim to compare (someone) would hold your hand… then I suggest it’s buried far too deep. If we were together, I would hold your hand forever is comparable and does work, and that’s because it’s so much more simple. How many phrases, clauses or thoughts are there in If we were to be together to prove that there's/there was no end, so help me, would hold your hand forever even you're/you were pretend? Sep 19, 2017 at 16:56

3 Answers 3

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In the case of language or grammar, consistency in tenses depends on the sense conveyed by the writer. There are always exceptions to almost every rule.

With reference to EF's examples, I would like to say, even though the time frame refers to the present or future, if the condition is unreal or hypothetical, then the past subjunctive must be used in the Type 2 Conditionals. However, I think the past conditional form of 'be' should be: 'If the weather weren't so bad, .......' 'If I were the Queen of England,......'

Now, as far as your own example is concerned, the past subjunctive in the If-clause, [If we were to be together,] implies a hypothetical situation in the present time frame. So, the main clause [(I) would hold your hand...] takes the present conditional form. "...So help me" is not the main clause of the sentence, nor can it be used in the past tense.

If you mean to say your love is endless till now, then present tense is fine. It would be correct to say: “……. to prove that there’s no end, so help me, would hold your hand forever even you were pretend.” [but you are real].

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I think the sentence "If the weather wasn't so bad, we would go to the park." is grammatically correct, but it's lacking context:

The weather is bad. If the weather weren't bad (subjunctive), I would go out, but it is bad.

The weather was bad. If the weather wasn't bad, I'm wrong. If the weather wasn't bad (earlier), I would have gone to the park, but it was bad, so I didn't. If the weather wasn't bad (earlier), I would go to the park (now), but the ground will probably be wet, so I won't go.


The second sentence has a similar problem, but I can't find context for it to make sense:

If I was the Queen, I don't remember.

If I was the Queen, I gave chicken to everyone, but I'm not sure I was the Queen.

If I were the Queen, I would give chicken to everyone. (subjunctive If)

If I was the Queen (and don't remember), (I'm sure) I would give chicken to everyone (and everyone would clap every time I did it)? It is nonsense.


In your example, I'd say:

We are not together. (Love) has no end. You might be pretend. If we were to be together to prove that there is no end, so help me, I would hold your hand forever even if you're pretend.

We are not together. (Love) has no end. You are pretend. If we were to be together to prove that there is no end, so help me, I would hold your hand forever even though you're pretend.

We are not together. The (love) didn't end. You are not pretend. If we were to be together to prove that there was no end, so help me, I would hold your hand forever even if you were pretend.

We are not together. The (love) didn't end. You are pretend. (twist: we're still in love, but we're not together and you don't even exist) If we were to be together to prove that there was no end, so help me, I would hold your hand forever even though you are pretend.

To sum up, word combinations we learn to be correct or incorrect are reliant on context.

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My preferred usage in the first two examples is the past subjunctive, rather than the simple past form of to be.

Wikipedia has this to say about it (here):

Second conditional

"Second conditional" or "conditional II" refers to a pattern used to describe hypothetical, typically counterfactual situations with a present or future time frame (for past time frames the third conditional is used). In the normal form of the second conditional, the condition clause is in the past tense (although it does not have past meaning), and the consequence is expressed using the conditional construction with the auxiliary would:

If I liked parties, I would attend more of them.

If it rained tomorrow, people would dance in the street.

The past tense (simple past or past progressive) of the condition clause is historically the past subjunctive. In modern English this is identical to the past indicative, except in the first and third persons singular of the verb be, where the indicative is was and the subjunctive were; was is sometimes used as a colloquialism (were otherwise preferred), although the phrase if I were you is common in colloquial language. ...

If I (he, she, it) were rich, there would be plenty of money available for this project.

If I (he, she, it) were speaking, you would not be allowed to interrupt like that.

[emphasis added]

However, you won't be misunderstood using the simple past ("was"), so if that's what you're being taught in a classroom setting, that's what you should use when answering an exam.

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  • My question is about the consistency of the verb tenses in using the Type 2 conditional. Please see my example above and use "what I mean" as the reference of the context. And I'd like to see my grammatical mistakes. Please correct me. Another question, I'm overusing "the," aren't I?
    – Xyenz
    May 3, 2017 at 3:21

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