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.)?


4 Answers 4


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.


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.


We don't use modal verbs for those kinds of sentences where there is no kind of uncertainties.

We can use modal verbs only for interrogative sentences of present tense, future tense, or past tense because interrogative sentences always resemble a sentence with some kind of uncertainty.

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