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I have read the following sentence:

My biggest fear was that I would die before her.

I assume that "would" expresses a condition here. If the sentence in the present is "My biggest fear is that I die before her", why is the conditional used instead of the Past Simple when the fact occurs in the past ? Would the Past Simple be correct and mean the same in the following sentence?

My biggest fear was that I died before her.

  • No, it isn't correct, in English or Portuguese. – Lambie Oct 2 '19 at 21:58
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Here we have to use the tense which should talk about future in the past.

My biggest fear was that I would die before her.

If it is present tense:

My biggest fear is that I will die before her

Here the speaker thinks that something will happen in the future.

In the first sentence,It was just his fear that something would happen in the future but it might not have happened.

My biggest fear was that I died before her.

The sentence means that the speaker really died. If it is true, how can he say the sentence?

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  • Tricky. So in "If I died, who would take care of her?", does "died" necessarily refer to the past ? I thought it referred to the present/future and that "If I had died, who would take care of her?" referred to the past. – Alan Evangelista Oct 3 '19 at 16:48
  • @AlanEvangelista.That is improbable conditional. Here it is different – successive suspension Oct 3 '19 at 16:56
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    My confusion probably arises because my native language (Portuguese) sees these two situations ("If i died, ..." and "My fear was that I died") as hypothetical and therefore uses the same verb tense for both. From what you told me, English does not. – Alan Evangelista Oct 3 '19 at 17:01
  • @AlanEvangelista.Yes.I was afraid that I would die but not I died. – successive suspension Oct 3 '19 at 17:03
  • In Portuguese, like I said in my comment above, you would never say "My biggest fear was the I died before her". Portuguese would not use the same tense in both sentences. And sentence two makes no sense in either language. Apparently, no one else around here speaks Portuguese. – Lambie Oct 4 '19 at 17:02

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