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I know there are 4 types of conditional sentence. zero, one, two, three and mixed conditional; that the mixed conditional has two types:

  1. When the condition refers to the past, but the consequence to the present; for example:

    If you had done your job properly, we wouldn't be in this mess now.

  2. When the consequence refers to the past, but the condition is not expressed as being limited to the past; for example:

    If I spoke louder, you would have heard me before.

My questions are:

  1. What is the meaning of the last sentence (or in what situations we can use this sentence)?

  2. What is the difference between the above sentence and the sentence:

    If I had spoken louder, you would have heard me before

    (type three of conditionals)

Thank you very much for your help.

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  • Your first sentence is not really accurate... see here and here
    – randomhead
    Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 14:59
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    But there aren't "4 types of conditional sentence" - that's just a gross simplification to help non-native speakers recognise some of the more common forms (but in fact there are an almost infinite number of different ways of expressing "conditional" utterances in English). Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 16:11
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    Note that Simple Past If I spoke louder... COULD be used in the same context (and with the SAME MEANING) as the Perfect version If I had spoken louder... (talking about a possible alternative past that didn't happen). But that "Simple Past" version can also be used in the same context and with the same meaning as the "Present" version If I speak louder... (talking about a possible alternative present or future that still might happen). Commented Dec 24, 2021 at 16:18

1 Answer 1

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I must agree with the comments that the "four types of conditional sentences" are badly misleading and do not accurately reflect how conditionals are in fact used, or how grammarians discuss them. That said...

What is the meaning of the last sentence (or in what situations we can use this sentence)?

If I spoke louder, you would have heard me before.

The phrase "If I spoke louder" (using a simple past tense) could refer to the present or to a hypothetical future. (this phrase is the premise of the conditional) But when combined with "would have heard" it seems to be referring to an unreal or hypothetical past. The whole sentence I take to mean that the narrator said something, but was not heard the first time that s/he said it. Now the narrator speculates that if that past speech had been louder, the person addressed would have heard it. So this form can be used when speaking of a possible past event that did not occur (an unreal past) and stating a conclusion about what result would have followed had the event in fact occurred. Implicit is that the subsequent event did not in fact occur.

"Before" could be replaced with "before this" or "earlier" and the result would have the same meaning, but in my view would be clearer.

What is the difference between the above sentence and the sentence:

If I had spoken louder, you would have heard me before

There is no significant difference in meaning. This form, by using "had spoken" (past perfect) makes it clear that the sentence deals with an unreal past. One need not analyze the clause describing the consequence or conclusion to realize that this is about an unreal past, use of the Past Perfect form hollowing an "If" tells us that. Thus I would often prefer this to the form using the simple past. It may sound slightly more formal than the form with the simple past.

This is an example of what some call a "Past counterfactual state, past hypothetical consequence" See "Conditional Sentences in English: Counterfactual Conditionals where the example (#52) given is "If it had been fine yesterday, we would have had a barbecue" Others refer to this as a subjunctive sentence, although it dose not use the grammatical subjunctive mood. It is also known as a conditional perfect

Note that in both sentence the hypothetical conclusion is implied to be certain or highly likely if the premise had been true. If the conclusion had been less cerftian, a form such as:

If I had spoken louder, you might have heard me before

could be used.

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  • The elephant in the room is that "If I spoke louder" can only be uttered in the present about now: If I spoke louder [now], you would hear me. The past is: If I had spoken louder. Regardless of how people speak. Those are standard speech.
    – Lambie
    Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 1:45
  • @Lambie I must disagree. "spoke" is after all in the past tense "I spoke to you last Thursday" I will see about a confirming source on this. Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 2:44
  • Thank you very much. This was a perfect answer.
    – Jo Jomax
    Commented Dec 25, 2021 at 11:52

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