Consider the following hypothetical example. A friend of mine named Alex passed away last year. I've found a notebook in his room with pictures of lions. This suggests that he was likely interested in lions. This observation makes me think he may have been interested in tigers too -- because lions and tigers share a lot of similarities.

Can I use the following sentence to describe my opinion -- including the possibly real condition that Alex may have been interested in lions; or it will be confused by the second/mixed conditional structure where we talk about unreal conditions.

If Alex was interested in lions, he may have been interested in tigers too.

1 Answer 1


Your sentence is fine and sounds natural. Both clauses describe situations that could be real or not, and the past tense* indicates that both "actions" took place in the past (because Alex is no longer alive). Searching in Google Books produced several examples of similar sentences, such as this one (from Paul Lee's "The Titanic and the Indifferent Stranger", pg. 200):

If Rostron's course was correct, then he may have been to the east of where he thought he was, perhaps caught in the North Atlantic Drift.

And this one (from William C. Davis's "Inventing Loreta Velasquez", pg. 58):

If the belt was designed for carrying documents, then she may have been in the vicinity of fact.

*The main clause isn't really in the "past tense". It includes a modal verb with the perfect aspect.

  • Perfect. Thank you for your great help!
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 15:12
  • I wonder how you found the above helpful examples from Google books. Did you use any specific technique?
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 15:16
  • 1
    @Jeff I searched for "then he may have been", "then she might have been", etc. Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 16:46
  • Got it. Thank you!!
    – Jeff
    Commented Mar 1, 2022 at 18:23

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