I've read this sentence somewhere on the Internet and I'm wondering if it's correct:

I would be surprised if it makes any difference.

Shouldn't it be:

I would be surprised if it could make any difference (Second conditional.)?


Both sentences are correct, but have slightly different meanings. The first sentence means that the person will feel surprised after the difference is made, whereas the second sentence means that the person would feel surprised if 'it' had the potential or capability to make a difference.

  • Shouldn't then we use will instead of would? I will be surprised if it makes any difference? – Zaraza.132 Aug 24 '18 at 14:08

If you change X to {modal} X, X doesn't change tense or form.

If you want to make a modal verb refer to the past, up and above the meaning of the modal itself, your only choice is to make it perfect by adding have:

I go to the park.

I would go to the park.

I would have gone to the park.

  • Can won't work with have - use could.

  • Ought without not will sound a bit literary unless you say I ought to have X. Should is practically equivalent and doesn't have this limitation.

Modals cover a lot of "gray areas" in respect to when something happened, and if it happened or will happen, or if we are talking about possibility, obligation, expectation, etc. Modal expressions aren't the same "type" or category of non-modal past or of present expressions.


Think of it on these terms.

("He could make | He is making | He has made | He makes.')

Both sentences are correct but it is up to you to decide what tense you are referring to.

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