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Suppose the following sentence occurs in a context about a lawsuit, and in the the first sentence of the paragraph that follows, the Supreme Court revoked the ruling. In other words, the ruling isn't valid anymore. I'd like to know whether would make or would have made is correct:

According to the ruling, merely reading an article online would have made / would make thieves of most Internet users.

I'd appreciate your help.

  • Terribly unclear question. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 20 '18 at 19:12
  • How would reading an article online "make thieves of most Internet users"? I know what you're trying to say, but that's an odd way of putting it. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 20 '18 at 19:17
  • You need consistent tenses: reading would make, or having read would have made. – Davo Nov 27 '18 at 14:39
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The ruling really amounts to the result of the hearing. So ultimately we're talking about the reasoning behind the verdict which has already concluded. Therefore, it would make more sense to talk about it in past conditional terms, as this scenario isn't being considered now that reading an article online makes thieves of internet users.

Now, if the ruling were in progress, perhaps I might be more inclined to say "would make". It is always conditional, but it is the case being discussed in this particular moment, so it wouldn't be in the past tense.

So that said, I would argue that this is more correct:

According to the ruling, merely reading an article online would have made thieves of most Internet users.

This is very subtle, and I want to stress that because I don't mean to say that this is the absolute correct way. I only mean to say that this is more correct in my humble opinion, but both can be used.

  • Yes, it's pretty convoluted. Originally I was also inclined to "would make", but, as you say, since the case is complete, "would have made" is better. – Andrew Nov 21 '18 at 17:00

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