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Wikipedia:

The use of present and past tenses without reference to present and past time does not apply to all dependent clauses, however; if the future time or hypothetical reference is expressed in the dependent clause independently of the main clause, then a form with will or would in a dependent clause is possible:

This is the man who will guide you through the mountains.

We entered a building where cowards would fear to tread.

I want to know what is meant by "if the future time or hypothetical reference is expressed in the dependent clause independently of the main clause, then a form with will or would in a dependent clause is possible.", and by "possible" do they mean whether to use will and would in dependent clauses or not is optional in that case?. wikipedia page

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  • It is all explained here learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/… – Brad Mar 22 at 10:20
  • @Brad I really don't see how this is related to my question. – simple Mar 22 at 10:55
  • They mean that if the "time reference" of the dependent clause (who will guide you through the mountains = FUTURE, where cowards would fear to tread = TIMELESS / CONDITIONAL) is "independent of" (not directly bound up with) the time implied by the main clause (This is the man = PRESENT, We entered a building = PAST) then it's possible for the dependent clause to use will or would (but presumably the implication of that is it's not necessary). – FumbleFingers Mar 22 at 16:47
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if the future time or hypothetical reference is expressed in the dependent clause independently of the main clause, then a form with will or would in a dependent clause is possible [emphasis added].

This is the man who will guide you through the mountains [emphasis added].

We entered a building where cowards would fear to tread [emphasis added].

I add to what FumbleFingers has explained. The main clauses in examples 1 and 2 are in PRESENT tense and PAST tense, respectively. They are independent of their dependent clauses (FUTURE and TIMELESS respectively).

I interpret 'possible' as meaning this is optional.

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  • I'm assuming "independent" doesn't mean (the tense or the verb form of the main clause is different) but (the time reference or the time referred to by the main clause is different). I know that the two sentences aren't that different in meaning, but the tense doesn't always reflect the time referred to or talked about (past tense doesn't always mean past time for example). – simple Mar 23 at 3:03

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