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1.If such a huge meteor had really crashed into the Earth, why isn't there even a little piece of evidence such as crater anywhere on Earth?

2.If he were really a famous singer, why can't he sing very well?

As you see, subjunctive mood (had crashed and were) is used in these bold parts to express the hypothetical situation that is supposed to be not real to the writers who wrote these two sentences, but is it grammatically correct to combine subjunctive mood with present tense as in "why isn't" and "why can't"?

As far as I know, present tense cannot be used with subjunctive mood, so I'm asking this question.

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    Who told you that these two sentences were incorrect? If there were a rule to forbid such a construction, why is it that I, a native speaker, see nothing wrong with them? – JeremyC Aug 2 at 21:15
  • @JeremyC There's a lot of native speakers who think those sentences are not grammatically correct, but interestingly, there's also a lot of native speakers who think those sentences sound natural like you, but I don't know these people belonging to the latter group would think of them as grammatical as well. – SinK Aug 2 at 21:18
  • I don't understand the latter part of your comment, after the word 'but'. Can you put your point another way, please? I really do not see what is wrong with the construction. Where do you get that idea from? – JeremyC Aug 2 at 21:24
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    All I can say is that Miss-Know_It_All doesn't. 'were' is not in any kind of past tense. It is subjunctive, referring to a state that is uncertain. I can quote the authority of Tweedeldee:'"Contrariwise," continued Tweedledee, "if it was so, it might be, and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic!" ' – JeremyC Aug 2 at 21:41
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    See my first comment. – JeremyC Aug 2 at 21:58
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Both of your example sentences are compound sentences. They are each composed of two clauses. One of the clauses is an independent clause, and the other is an introductory "if-clause" which describes a non-real situation. The verbs in the "if-clauses" are in the subjunctive mood: "had crashed" and "were". This is appropriate for hypothetical events.

On the other hand, the second clause of each sentence is an independent clause, and can stand alone as a sentence by itself:

Why isn't there even a little piece of evidence such as crater anywhere on Earth?

and

Why can't he sing very well?

The two verbs you are asking about, "isn't" and "can't", the verbs in those two clauses, are in the present tense because they refer to the present situation in the real world.

So your example sentences are "hybrids" which combine the subjunctive mood and the (real, or "indicative" mood) present tense in separate clauses. This is OK, and both sentences are grammatically correct.

  • I was thrown for a moment and your answer almost satified me. Sentence #2 could have been "If he were really a famous singer, he would be able to sing very well" and that is perhaps what OP is expecting. But the mood switches, changing it into a question. However, I now think the original sentence is ungrammatical, and should be "If he really is a famous singer, why can't he sing very well?" – Weather Vane Aug 2 at 21:45
  • So you saying sentence 2 is grammatically aceepteble? – SinK Aug 2 at 22:19
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The Question is Can we use present tense with subjunctive mood?

The Poster commented; As far as I know, present tense cannot be used with subjunctive mood, so I'm asking this question.

Regarding your first example

Why isn't there even a little piece of evidence such as crater anywhere on Earth?

The answer is No we cannot. To explain myself more, we cannot mix tense's. To explain I suggest your question would have been better phrased as Why has the writer used both subjunctive mood and present tense in the same sentence. The fact is the writer has not mixed tenses, what he has done is combined two clauses which could have been written as two separate sentences as each clause is complete. The ability to use two different tenses in the same sentence thus stems from the fact that the two clauses are complete and could stand alone.

If such a huge meteor had really crashed into the Earth. Why isn't there even a little piece of evidence such as crater anywhere on Earth?

Now let's consider your second example.

If he were really a famous singer, why can't he sing very well?

"If he were really" Although this is fairly common speech, or it is in my part of the world. If he were really is a phrase meaning He's not a Famous singer. Then the writer goes on to qualify this by asking the question why can't he sing very well? The meaning of the complete sentence being He's not a Famous singer you can know he is not, because he cannot sing well.

The point being that If he were really a famous singer and Why can't he sing very well? cannot be used as stand alone sentences and keep the same meaning. They would become two statements (statement, plus statement question) rather than one (interdependent) suggestive sentence.

If he really "is" a famous singer, why can't he sing very well? is the Sentence we should be using and that would not mix tense's.

really adverb (NOT IMAGINARY)Cambridge English dictionary

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