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Which of the following sentences are correct

  • If X killed a few of them, that would be a headline for weeks in the west.
  • If X had killed a few of them, that would be a headline for weeks in the west.
  • If X have killed a few of them, that would be a headline for weeks in the west.

I thought the first one was the case, because we usually make imaginary sentences with simple past and would, but now I suspect the other sentences could be true or even better

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  • Are you aware of the kinds of conditional sentences? (First conditional, second conditional, etc.) English can be very loose with verbs (especially in conditional sentences), but understanding those structures will help you to figure out how to form this sentence properly. Commented May 3, 2022 at 16:14
  • Please review conditional sentences before posting. Thanks.
    – Lambie
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 16:55

1 Answer 1

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The first one, with "killed", is totally appropriate. I agree with you that the second one, "had killed", is better (but only slightly) and "had ...ed" is a normal way to construct an imaginary sentence.

The third one, "have killed", is not quite right. "If X had xyz" lets us know that xyz hasn't happened, so 'would' is appropriate because it links the condition that will not come true as a result of X not happening. In the "If X have" (or has, etc) construction, we are discussing the future assuming that X has done xyz, so we can't say 'would' because it is no longer uncertain or unlikely that the next thing will happen. You can say "If X have... that will be...", to mean that X has already done or not done something you don't yet know the status of, but which, if it had happened, will lead to some known consequence. So we might have "If I've worked enough this month, I'll take a few days off" (I don't know if I worked enough), or "If I had worked enough this month, I would take a few days off" (I didn't work enough, so I won't), but not both.

If talking about the West globally, in the sense of the EU/US/etc and not the direction, I would capitalize west.

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