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"The researchers suggested, for example, that 20 percent of heart disease deaths among American women could be averted if the highest consumers of processed meat would cut down to the equivalent of less than a half strip of bacon a day."

Is it correct to say that the author has used "would" in the if clause to make it polite, and that it should be translated in present tense?

"Should I Use Will or Would in an If-Clause?" on grammarly.com doesn't mention "would".

Thanks a lot! :-)

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It’s not about being polite, and it’s definitely not to make it easier on translators; if anyone tried to do that with English, we’d probably end up doing away with whole parts of the language!

The ‘would’ in that sentence is showing that it’s a possible thing that they could do if they chose to, if they were willing to:

...20 percent of heart disease deaths among American women could be averted if the highest consumers of processed meat were willing to cut down to the equivalent of less than a half strip of bacon a day

Keep in mind, however, that there’s another way to use ‘would’ in an if clause:

...If the highest consumers of processed meat would eat the equivalent of less than a half strip of bacon a day, 20 percent of heart disease deaths among American women could be averted

In this if clause, the ‘would’ says that ‘if the consumers ate [did eat]the equivalent, then 20 percent of heart diseases deaths could be averted’, whereas the other one says that ‘if the consumers were willing to eat the equivalent, then 20 percent of heart disease deaths could be averted’.

Hope that helps!

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  • Thank you very much Fivesideddice! This helped a lot. That page on grammarly.com did mention willingness. I should have paid more attention...
    – Nima Abna
    Apr 6 '20 at 13:18
  • @NimiAbna I hope this isn’t presuming too much, but if you think an answer’s good you can upvote it (once you have 15 rep), and if you think that it’s the best answer you’re likely to get you can tap the tick below the vote buttons to “accept” it. Sorry if you knew all of this and you’re waiting for a better answer to come along and/or to get 15 rep! Apr 6 '20 at 13:36
  • Yes, sorry, I knew these but completely forgot. my bad. And your answer couldn't be better. Thank you very much again :-)
    – Nima Abna
    Apr 6 '20 at 13:43

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