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I was supposed to fill the blank without changing a meaning of the first sentence.

She is not self-confident enough; that’s why she did not cope with the situation then.

If she were more self-confident, she ______________________ with the situation then.

My answer was "would cope", but according to the answer key it should be "would have coped". But I don't see why. We have here "If she were", so I thought it should be "would cope". If there were "If she had been", then I would choose "would have coped".

So, what am I missing?

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"more confident" is being viewed as a persistent state. In indicative sentences, the present tense is used for states that persistently are true. For instance, "pentagons have fives sides" doesn't merely mean "pentagons currently have fives sides". If I were discussing an interaction with a pentagon that occurred in the past, I would still use the present tense to refer to the pentagon having three sides, because that is a state that is not confined to the past.

Similarly, the first conditional is used when discussing conditions that refer to a persistent state that is not confined to a particular time period, even if its relevance applies to past period. For instance, "If pentagons had six sides, then it wouldn't have made sense that people called the military headquarters The Pentagon." Here, "called the military headquarters The Pentagon" is something that happened in the past, but pentagons having a particular number of sides is not confined to a particular period of time.

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Some grammar books suggest that there are 3(-4) possible structures.-> 1st, 2nd and 3rd conditionals. Some add the zero conditional. This is misleading. Any combination is possible.

You usually use past simple + if to talk about the present (or future).

If she were more self-confident,... (But she is not self-confident.)

You usually use would(n't) have + past participle to talk about something that happened/didn't happen in the past. These things would(n't) have happened, if things were different in the if half of the sentence.

…, she would have coped with the situation then. (But she didn't cope with the situation.)

You usually use would(n't) to talk about something that isn't possible in the present. These things would(n't) happen, if things in the if half of the sentence came true, which isn't possible now.

…, she would cope with the situation. (But she can't cope with the situation now.)

So the following sentence is correct:

If she were more self-confident, she would have coped with the situation then.

= She is not self-confident, therefore she (wasn't able to cope) /didn't cope with the situation.

The following sentence is correct if you leave out then::

If she were more self-confident, she would cope with the situation.

= She is not self-confident, therefore she can't cope with the situation (now).

  • If she had been self-confident,she would have coped [etc]. – Lambie Jan 30 at 20:45
  • If you use "If she had been self-confident …" you are talking about a state that "was". If you use "If she were self-confident … " you are talking about a state that "is". – re_nez Jan 30 at 20:55
  • I'm saying it is missing from your sentences. If you give: would have coped, this is another possibility – Lambie Jan 30 at 20:59
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In the example sentence, "were" is modified by the final "then" to express a hypothetical past condition, thus here "If she were" is equivalent to "If she had been".

Without the final "then" your answer of "would cope" would be correct, because the sentence would be expressing a hypothetical future condition.

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