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Assume you want to write a bet between you and your friend, which happened in the past. Then you write: "I did not want to answer her questions. However, if what she said is true, for example, the moon is round on that day, I would answer the following questions proposed by her: XXX....."

So, I think that the tense of "will" should be "would"?

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  • I think you've broadly got the right idea. However, you should also apply backshifting to "is", to give "if what she said was true" and "if the moon was round". I think you can make the whole thing clearer by saying "But I agreed that if what she said was true [...]"
    – legatrix
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:36
  • Hi, thank you! But I think that "the moon is round on that day" is a reality, it did not just happen in the past, it is a truth? So I should use "is" round?
    – MilkyWay
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:43

2 Answers 2

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The use of "would" implies that the writer does not expect the situation to come up, and thus does not expect to make the answer. The use of "will" implies that the writer does expect the situation to arise, and expects to make the answer when it does. The would "will" could also be used when the writer is unsure, but things the outcome likely.

All that said, fluent speakers might well use "would" without carefully considering just how likely the future situation in fact is.

If the writer is describing a situation in the past where s/he might have answered the question, but did not, and now never will (or is unlikely to), then "would have" should be used in place of "would". The use of "would" indicates a future possibility, or a future oriented hypothetical.

If you were to do that, then I would do this.

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  • Do you mean that, even if all the things happened in the past, I can still use "will"?
    – MilkyWay
    Dec 30, 2020 at 17:45
  • If the bet happened in the past but the question is expected to be answered in the future, one might use "will". If the whole event was in the past and the conditions for giving an answer never arose, then use "would have".. Dec 30, 2020 at 17:52
  • @MilkyWay No. If the answer was in fact given, some form of past tense should be used, perhaps with "did". Or "Since what she said was true, I answered her:XYZ" or "I gave an answer". In any case past tense. Dec 30, 2020 at 18:08
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    If you ae writing from the point in time when the answer has not yet been given, "would have" could be used "If she had done this, I would have said that. And so I eventually did." Dec 30, 2020 at 18:14
  • Yes, but I mean, imagine that you describe a rule of game, you will use some sentence like "If...., one will...." and this happened in the past. So I think it is not related to what on earth I lose the bet or not?
    – MilkyWay
    Dec 30, 2020 at 18:22
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"would" is for past tense, so you would be able to say "would" for the following sentence, also you would have to add a "had":

If you had won, I would give you ...

As mentioned in the dictionary, the meaning of "would" is:

past of will, in various senses.

But as you mentioned, your example is for future tense, so you would use "will":

If you win, I will give you ...

As mentioned in the dictionary, the meaning of "will" is:

expressing the future tense.

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