No sooner had he said the word, when clatter, clatter, rustle, rustle, what should come down the chimney but a link of the finest black pudding the heart of man could wish for.

If the woodman stared, the goodwife stared three times as much. 'What's all this?" says she.

This is from a English fairy tale "The Three Wishes". Is "If the woodman stared, the goodwife stared three times as much." is 2nd conditional? But it doesn't have a word "would". Does it make sense just as past tense? And why is it "says she"? Does it mean "she would say"? Could you teach me?

1 Answer 1



It's not a conditional.

One of the definitions of "if" given by Cambridge is "although":

They're great kids, even if they can be demanding.

literary It was a hot, if windy day.

Says she

When quoting direct speech, the verb "say" can appear in multiple positions, all correct:

"Hello," David said.

"Hello," said David.

David said, "Hello."

Said David, "Hello."

The last is rare. The first three are all quite common where the subject is a noun, but where the subject is a pronoun, the "he said" word order is much more frequent than "said he".

"Says she" is therefore a relatively unusual way of saying "she says".

Here it seems to represent the historic present - i.e. it is the present tense but it is used to tell a story.

  • Thank you for your helpful answer. That is to say, they are all fact? Oct 20, 2017 at 19:05
  • Indeed they are.
    – rjpond
    Oct 20, 2017 at 19:16

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