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Is it correct to say that “the spaces between the tea bushes are so overgrown with rapacious vines and greenery that I imagine if the people went on holiday for a week, the whole place would be reclaimed by the jungle by the time they returned?” In my opinion, the subordinate clause by the time they returned is preceded by a main clause whose verb tense should be past perfect; however, it appears otherwise. I’d like to know what it means here. Thanks a lot!

  • Did you mean "is preceded by" rather than "is followed by"? The whole sentence looks fine to me but I am not sure I see your doubt. – mdewey Aug 3 at 16:14
  • Thank you for your correction! But I still wonder why the verb tense of the main clause is not past perfect. Is it possible that “by the time they returned” is conditional? – Raymond Aug 4 at 3:41
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Let us look at some options

if the people went on holiday for a week, the whole place would be reclaimed by the jungle by the time they returned

This refers to a possible future event. They have not, as far as the speaker knows, been on holiday but if they did then the jungle would come back during the space of the week they were away

if the people had gone on holiday for a week, the whole place would have been reclaimed by the jungle by the time they returned

In this case the speakers knows that they have not, in fact, been on holiday but is describing what hypothetically would have happened if they had

if the people go on holiday for a week, the whole place will be reclaimed by the jungle by the time they return

Again a future event but notice here that returned changes to return

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