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My first question is:

What are we talking about, Present or Future?

  1. Student: Excuse me sir, would you mind if I say something?

Teacher: No, I wouldn't. What's the matter?

  1. Student: Excuse me sir, would you mind if I said something?

Teacher: No, I wouldn't. What's the matter?

What's the right choice, say or said? Is there a difference in meaning?

I've read these posts: "Would you mind if I use" vs. "would you mind if I used"

"It would be better if you drink/drank all the water"

And even this:

How do the tenses and aspects in English correspond temporally to one another?

But I think there is still an element of ambiguity here, in this particular case, I mean.

I wonder if the second example is imaginary

(like these examples which they have the same structure "would+base form, if+past simple":

A. It would be better if you drank all the water.

B. I would buy a sports car if I had a million dollars.)

or real,

and even if it's referring to present

(by this meaning: "I want to say something right now if you let me.")

or future

(by this meaning: "At some point in the future I will say something if you let me.")

My second question is:

Are there some better ways to ask for permission(from teacher) to say something in the class?

For example something like May I please say something? or Shall I say something?

What's the most idiomatic way to asking for permission(from your teachers in school) to talk about a particular thing with them in a situation like this (except for Excuse me teacher, I need to talk to you!)? enter image description here

Is this idiomatic?(I think it's a little bit weird)

Let me say something, shall I?

Is it possible to use a passive form?

For example I wonder if we can say something like the following sentence by this meaning I'm gonna say something.:

There's something to be said.

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When you talk about something hypothetical, you replace is/are by the subjunctive were, and for all other verbs you backshift the tense of the verb in the same way that you do for reported speech.

When you want to ask for something, you can make it more polite by talking about it as a hypothetical suggestion, rather than a simple question.

Will you mind if I say something? - simple question
Would you mind if I said something? - hypothetical suggestion

We can use the present tense say because the context makes it clear that we are talking about something that will happen in the future. See more about using present tense for future actions here.

People rarely use present tense will, but you will often hear people using present tense for the second verb- say rather than said.


In a classroom situation, you are asking the teacher for permission to speak- you can do this using may or can. To make a formal request, you use may - the second meaning in the Cambridge Dictionary:

May I say something? - simple question
Might I say something? - backshifted- hypothetical suggestion

To make an informal request, you use can - the second meaning in the Cambridge Dictionary

Can I say something? - simple question
Could I say something? - backshifted- hypothetical suggestion

You can add please to any of these options- either before or after the sentence, or before the verb.

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