I read below condition 2 sentence in a book. I know if clause is an imaginary condition but I am unable to understand the time frame of result clause. Is it in future, Present or Past.

"If I were president, I would cut the cost of education."

Thanks in advance


2 Answers 2


If I were president, I would cut the cost of education.

Syntactically, the apodosis is a preterite (past tense) clause because it has preterite "would" as head. Semantically, though, it serves to express how the speaker feels at the time of their utterance, so it refers to present/future time. It’s called a remote conditional construction and it stands in contrast with the open conditional equivalent "If I am president, I will cut the cost of education".

Traditional grammar wrongly calls the "were" in the protasis the past subjunctive, but of course it is not a tensed form but a mood form which modern grammar calls 'irrealis', indicating that it conveys varying degrees of remoteness from factuality. The protasis time is present. It's an untidy relic from an earlier system, and many speakers use preterite "was" instead.


That sentence is an unreal conditional sentence, which expresses events which are hypothetical or improbable, like you becoming president in this case.

Find out more at this Grammarly site.

Also refer to this site to find out more about which tenses are to be used in different conditional types.

Since this is a type 2 conditional sentence, the if clause should be in simple past tense while the main clause should be in present conditional or present continuous conditional.

  • I think the above statement using "I were" is in the past subjunctive rather than the simple past tense.
    – Nick
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 7:10
  • @NicholasCastagnola I think you’re right.. but based on what I have read so far, past subjunctive seems to be a feature of traditional grammar and is rarely used anymore
    – danielloid
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 7:49
  • 1
    I follow the traditional grammar rule as it is the correct rule; it is not invented like the new one. When I say that, I mean I've studied Old and Middle English grammar before and "I were" is clearly "ic ƿǣre" in the past subjunctive. The past indicative "I was" was "ic ƿæs". ƿ is the old runic letter wynn.
    – Nick
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 7:51

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