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If readers expected the usual glowing travelogue, they were sorely surprised.

If readers expected the usual glowing travelogue, they would be sorely surprised.

I want to know what these two sentences are trying to imply and the difference between them.

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2 Answers 2

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The first is a real conditional about the past. It means this writer didn't give the usual glowing travelogue, so readers who expected that were surprised.

The second sentence is an unreal conditional about the present. It means roughly, "Readers do not expect the usual glowing travelogue, so they are not surprised." It's a very strange sentence, and it's more likely that it's a mistake and the writer intended the meaning of the first sentence.

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The first sentence is about the past. It could also be put in the form of a past perfect, with'had' before 'expected'. The expectation preceded their 'sore surprise'.

I'm not clear what the second sentence is saying. But if the meaning roughly equates to the first sentence, it ought to say:

"If readers expected ..., they would have been sorely surprised'

The difference is now in the degree of certainty. The first is sure they were surprised. The second is a bit more conjectoral.

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