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As for the use of ‘if’, especially when I’m not talking about ‘unreal’ situations, I’m confused about what is the correct way to use it when I talk about something that happened in the past. For example,

  • God reminded them that if they turned away from God, they would be cursed.

(but it may sound like, they will hardly ever turn away from God, right…?)

  • God reminded them that if they have turned away from God, they would be cursed.
  • God reminded them that if they turned away from God, they were to be cursed.
  • God reminded them that if they turn away from God, they will be cursed.

What would be the correct one?

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You're not really asking about if, but about how to use tenses.

God said "If you turn away from me you will be cursed".

"God reminded them that if they turned away they would be cursed." There is no problem with this, it's the simplest way of restating what was said in the past.

"...if they have turned away" suggests that there's a strong possibility that they already have.

"They were to be cursed" suggests that the cursing was definitely going to happen.

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  • Does the phrase "they were to be cursed" signify it's certain to happen only if the condition satisfies? I mean, does it mean 'they will certainly be cursed 'if' they turn away from God'? or does it mean 'they are certainly gonna turn away from God and be cursed'? – YGOH Jan 27 at 1:32
  • one more question! If I want to change the sentence 'God reminded them that if they turned away from God, they would be cursed.' into a conditional one which is low in possibility, what would it be like? 1. God reminded them 'if they turned away from God they would be cursed' ...? are there any other options? – YGOH Jan 27 at 1:48
  • 'They were to be cursed' on its own means that it was certain to happen. Used with the 'if' phrase, I suppose it implies a stronger possibility. You could express a lower possibility by saying 'If [ever] they were to turn away from God...' – Kate Bunting Jan 27 at 9:13

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