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I’m wondering which tense (present or past) to use to describe a hypothetical outcome of an event that might happen.

Example: We have completed Test A, the result is not known yet. Depending on the outcome of Test A, we might or might not need to do a Test B.

Given that we are uncertain if Test B will be needed, but I wanted to talk about the possible outcome of an uncertain events. So if I wanted to say “if Test B turns/turned out bad, we will/would need to do a Test C.

Which tense should I use? I’m thinking Past Tense..

2 Answers 2

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You are considering the future, that has not happened yet so you need to use

if Test B turns out bad, we will need to do a Test C.

I hope it helps you.

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I would say, if you are not sure whether you need to do test B even - this is quite formal:

If I were to do test B and it were to turn out bad, I would need/have to do test C.

I don't love the "turn out bad" here, so I might say:

If I were to do test B and it didn't go well, I would need/have to do test C.

A step down in formality, would be:

If I had/needed to do test B and it [[were to go]/[went] badly]/[didn't go well], I would have/need to do test C.

Finally, a slightly shorter version of these:

If test B were to [turn out bad]/[not go well] (should I have to do it - implied), I would need/have to do test C.

Can't change the "were to" to a simple past tense here since we don't know it will necessarily occur.

I also prefer "have to" instead of "need to" in all of these, but not essential. "Need to" maybe sounds too formal.

Hope this helps.

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