The bounty description should have been:

Since the question has not been answered officially, I think it would be nice to have an answer for it.

Enter the question of mine:

I am wondering what tense I should use in a noun clause appearing in a conditional sentence.

What I am not sure about:

If she wanted to please me, she would pretend that she were/was/is happy.

If I were you, I would imagine I were/was/am going to pass the exam.

If I were you, I would say that I didn't/don't want to join his team.

But, I am quite sure in some cases, verbs should be in the appropriate tense that can describe the situation.

"If you had the sense of humor, you would enjoy what I am talking about."

If she were here, I would tell her that I like her. (because it is a fact that I like her. So it is like.)

  • Preliminary point: they are not noun clauses, but declarative content clauses.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 7:54
  • I am pretty quite sure they are noun clauses grammatically speaking. Ok, Let's say they are declarative content clauses. How do you use that to answer my question?
    – vincentlin
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 8:11
  • @vincentlin What do you mean by it has been answered officially?
    – AIQ
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 6:43
  • 1
    @vincentlin I don't think you can edit that. If you can't, it may be a good idea to edit your question and leave a note at the top saying that we should ignore the text in the blue ribbon.
    – AIQ
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 10:36
  • 1
    @vincentlin, what is it you want to know? You posted a lot of sentences, some of them correct and some not. But they are not all about the same topic or the same grammatical issue. The question at the top applies to only one of your many sentences. Can you add a question at the end that tells us exactly what it is you want to know? Commented May 2, 2020 at 2:04

1 Answer 1


If she wanted to please me, she would pretend that she was happy.

If I were you, I would imagine I was going to pass the exam.

You can't use were in the above examples, because that specific use of the verb "to be" belongs in the if-clause of a conditional. You can't use the present tense either, because you're still describing hypothetical or counterfactual situations - it sounds like "she" isn't actually happy, and possibly not even pretending to be, and in the second example, you aren't actually the other person so you're speculating about what they might think.

Note: if I were you (haha), I would say "she would pretend to be happy" in the first example, it feels a bit more natural.

If I were you, I would say that I didn't want to join his team.

Again, this is a hypothetical - you're speculating about what you might say if you were in another person's place, but you're not. So the present tense wouldn't be the right choice.

The highlighted verbs in your last two sentences work, because they are not hypothetical - you are talking about something funny in the first example, and you like "her" in the second example.

  • Thank you. Conditionals are always hard to fully grasp for me, especially when there are also clauses and others. The explanations you gave me in the section expound on the issue clearly. I am grateful for it.
    – vincentlin
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 6:53
  • 1
    @vincentlin they are hard, indeed. If possible, I recommend that you don't try to learn all types of conditionals all at once - it's a lot of information, and it can be very difficult to remember. Spend some time with each conditional form - e.g. by finding examples of it in written text, or by using it in conversation with native or fluent speakers - before you move on to the next.
    – RuslanD
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 6:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .