Sentence itself: [Enemy] uses that spell when was attacked by any Ice spell.

I am wondering, is that construction sounds "good" in English, or native speaker would rather use different tense/aspect or word "If" instead of "When"? Is is good to use Present Simple here? I guess it is, because we are talking about general fact (or pattern if you will) that does not strictly relate to any time at all.

Also I will be glad if you point to more mistakes I did in this question, just to keep my grammar right.



There is a videogame enemy, who changes his attack pattern, based on which type of attack he received. He uses specific spell only after the player use Ice spell against him. The sentence above is a text string in that enemy's description which player can find in bestiary (menu).

P.S. The deal is I am trying to translate game from my native language to English, just for practicing my English (have studied it for one year only, sorry) and passive forms + conditions are the most challenging thing I have encountered yet and I cannot really get into them.

  • 2
    One thing to consider is that these blurbs are generally written in a brief manner, somewhat close to headlinese... so if you want to make this consistent with that, you should consider removing any unnecessary words.... "Uses [spell name] when attacked with any ice spell."
    – Catija
    May 11, 2017 at 16:08
  • Thanks for info. I am not a pro translator and just translating things very close to original meaning. So, you are saying, I can remove "was" from description and just stay with plain "attacked"? Does is change the meaning much? Or it is just a shorthand?
    – Mark
    May 11, 2017 at 16:17
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    You can never expect to directly translate between one language and another. "Was" would not be appropriate in this sentence at all.
    – Catija
    May 11, 2017 at 16:19
  • 1
    The present tense verbs in [Enemy] uses that spell when [Enemy is] attacked by any Ice spell imply "timelessness" (so when could be replaced by whenever with no change in meaning). If you use the past tense, you must be consistent: [Enemy] used that spell when [Enemy was] attacked by any Ice spell. In that example, only the word any tells us that [Enemy] did this more than once - if it were changed to an, it would more likely be understood as meaning that he only did this once. May 11, 2017 at 17:14

1 Answer 1


[Enemy] uses [spell] when attacked with any Ice spell

That's what you want, so you weren't very far off. There is a passive voice in the condition, it that is fine. This is abbreviated language, as found on signage, a lot of board and card game instructions, and generally well understood. If you want to be more standard and full in use of language, you would want:

[Enemy] uses [spell] when it/he/she is attacked with any Ice spell

The big difference between either of these and what you wrote isn't the extraneous words being lost, it's changing the by-adverbial, which I know people are taught to use with the passive voice to show what the subject would be in the active voice. Thing is, there's nothing special about the by-adverbial and the passive voice. You don't have to use it. If you put that sentence in the active voice, would it be "An ice spell attacks [enemy]"? I suspect it would actually be more like:

The player attacks [Enemy] with an Ice spell .

Now, you don't have to have a by-adverbial in a passive construction. Here, it's appropriate not to have it, because either it doesn't matter what attacked the enemy, or only the player can attack them so it doesn't matter. But you do want to keep the adverbial that describes what it was attacked with.

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