I’m reading a French novel (No and I) in English and I came upon this sentence:

I was concentrating so hard that it took me a while to realize that someone was tapping me on the shoulder. A mammoth could trample over my feet at times like these and I wouldn’t even notice. I turned round.

If we add « even if » to the second sentence, which tense will we need to use?

  • Even if a mammoth trampled over my feet, I wouldn’t notice.
  • Even if a mammoth would trample over my feet, I wouldn’t notice.

The second one sounds wrong to me but I am not a native speaker. For me, it sounds like a hypothesis (in the imaginary case/scenario that…), like "if I were rich," and so should not take "would." However, looking up online (on The British Newspaper The Guardian) I have found sentences like:

The announcement that scientists think they may have found a planet orbiting the star nearest to our sun is potentially big news – even if it would take 70,000 years to get there

Are there different meanings to « even if » here: hypothesis? Concession?


  • If (or even if) cannot be followed by "would". That Guardian sentence is non-standard and should read: even if it took 70,000 years to get there. dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/… People do sometimes use the form with would have in informal speaking, but many speakers consider it incorrect.
    – Lambie
    May 9 '18 at 11:08
  • @Lambie But the Guardian sentence is entirely grammatical! Would is perfectly fine in many situations in conditional antecedents - even if lots of grammar books don't tell us so. For example If you wouldn't mind, may I use your computer? etc, etc May 9 '18 at 13:10
  • @Araucaria Did you actually read what I got from the BBC? There is no justification for it in The Guardian article at all. "If you wouldn't mind" is not the sentence from The Guardian.
    – Lambie
    May 9 '18 at 13:45
  • @Lambie The entry you've given is basic advice for lower-level learners. Everyone knows that both will and would occur regularly in conditional antecedents, but only under certain conditions. Trust me - my PhD is in conditionals!!!!!!!! ;-) May 9 '18 at 13:55
  • @Lambie "If (or even if) cannot be followed by "would"." - if you would be so kind as to refrain from making such misleading statements... ;) And the thing about "even if" is that it's sometimes a conditional and sometimes not - compare "Even if you took the bus, you wouldn't get there on time" (a regular second conditional) and "Even if you took the bus, I still don't understand how you got here" (no cause-effect relationship, so the "if" clause needs to be read in its natural tense). Jul 31 '18 at 12:13

The surrounding sentences are in past tense here (I was concentrating, I turned round), so unless you include some indication that you are discussing a different time, you would use the past tense (your first proposal). However, in the original text, the author did include such an indicator: "at times like these." If you chose to include this phrase, I believe you could use your second proposal, as follows:

At times like these, even if a mammoth would trample over my feet, I wouldn’t notice

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