1

For example

If he were alive today, he would've supported the independence movement.

Here the speaker is talking about somebody who has passed away in a present interview. Wouldn't it be more suitable if the speaker use second conditional instead of a mix of subjunctive and conditional?

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  • Do you mean: If he were alive today, he would support etc.?
    – Lambie
    Jul 11 '20 at 15:38
  • yes something like that Jul 11 '20 at 15:42
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There is nothing wrong with the sentence in the question—it's a normal way of expressing such an idea, and it's a quite common structure.

However, yes, it can be rephrased to remove the subjunctive and still mean essentially the same thing.

To make it natural, however, his name would need to be known:

? A still living him would have supported the independence movement.
✔ A still living John Smith would have supported the independence movement.

While the version with the name is fine, and it is used on occasion, it's not as common as the subjunctive version.


Note two things here:

  • The subjunctive is part of a conditional, and is used naturally with it. You're not "mixing" the two.

  • Mixing verbs, when done correctly, is perfectly natural. Although learners might be told to not start off with mixing verbs, because doing so incorrectly is unnatural, once the language is understood, many sentences sound better when verbs are mixed. You might be confusing an initial prohibition against mixing verbs with the verb tenses used in conditional subjunctive statements.

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  • If i may ask, what is the linguistic term for mixing verbs ? Jul 11 '20 at 15:43
  • @willhemwill As far as I know, there is no such term. At least I've never encountered it before. Jul 11 '20 at 15:57
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[If he were alive today], he would've supported the independence movement.

Your example is fine, but don't call the conditional adjunct 'subjunctive'.

There is no subjunctive mood in English; it was lost in earlier stages of the language.

"Were" is an untidy relic of an earlier system, though where it does occur the tendency nowadays is to call it the irrealis form.

Many speakers usually, if not always, use preterite "was" instead, which has the same meaning but is less formal.

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  • The asker doesn't appear to be enquiring about this, but rather the use of would have instead of just would. Is this a doubly remote conditional, or does today denote a longer period of time, and therefore this movement (which I then assume occurred in the past) falls within it (today)? In other words, should the sentence be parsed as implying the movement occurred in the past, or that it's still occurring, and the use of would have simply adds extra unrealism to the otherwise usual would?
    – user3395
    Jul 11 '20 at 17:31
  • I'm aware of that, but learners must be made aware of the fact that English does not have a subjunctive mood.
    – BillJ
    Jul 12 '20 at 10:54

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