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(1) If I knew where she lived now, I'd go and see her.

(2) If I knew where she lives now, I'd go and see her.

[Question] Which is correct?

I think that (1) is correct, but a Japanese teacher of English says that only (2) is correct because of "now." I am confused.

I have never learned about what tense should be used in a subordinate clause of an if-clause of a second conditional sentence.

Thank you.

[Edit] FumbleFinger's suggested question tense in a sub-clause

is about sentences in the indicative mood, but my sentences are in the subjunctive mood.

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  • 1
    Does this answer your question? I asked if she knew French.(I asked if she knows French) Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 11:52
  • 1
    Both your examples are fine, but usually, native speakers "backshift" the verb in the complement (lived) to match the main verb (knew). This doesn't normally make any difference to the meaning, and I don't think it's relevant whether or not now is explicitly included (it's always implicit in such contexts, anyway). Commented Feb 19, 2023 at 11:54
  • @FumbleFingers I don't think 'lived'+'now' is correct because 'lived now' itself doesn't correspond.
    – gomadeng
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 5:04
  • @FumbleFingers I think the point of 'now' could be dangled with the full if-clause and in that case, the first sentence is fine according to your comment. I respect your comment NOW.
    – gomadeng
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 17:28
  • @Kaguyahime If the 'now' modifies 'knew', then I think the first sentence is also fine as already Fumble explained. Plz refer to this: What would he say if he were with me now?
    – gomadeng
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 17:32

2 Answers 2

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Your teacher is wrong.

The first sentence with "lived" is correct and much more natural than the second. The simple past form "lived" is correct because this sentence is in the irrealis mood (usually called "unreal grammar" in ESL material). In the irrealis mood, some verbs must shift to the relatively past form, in this case "know --> knew" and "will --> would", and other verbs may optionally shift to the past form, possibly including "lives/lived" in our case here.

The second sentence may be technically correct, but few native speakers would choose "lives" over "lived".

While the word "now" modifies "lives/lived", "lived" is still correct because that form represents the irrealis mood, not the simple past time. The verb "lived" is very much in the present time, not the past, so "now" and "lived" do not contradict each other.

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  • Personally, I think I'd still use lived in example #2 regardless of the presence or absence of the word now. The possibility of me using lives might rise significantly if I was placing very heavy stress on now. (But that's one of those contexts where I struggle to know what I would actually say, if I've been thinking about it too long! :) Commented May 30, 2023 at 19:07
  • @FumbleFingers Agreed. I'm not confident whether the second sentence is ever correct, so I left that possibility open in my wording. I think the bottom line here is that the teacher incorrectly believed that "lived" indicated a past time, which is incompatible with "now".
    – gotube
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 19:31
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    It seems a bit extreme to suggest OP's #2 (lives) is never "correct", but it's certainly rarely if ever idiomatic. Google Books has just a handful of written instances of if I knew what it is, as compared to dozens if not hundreds with ...what it was. Maybe it's precisely because it seems so easy to "justify" Present Tense if those words are followed by now that we don't like to completely rule it out. As a native speaker I just know I really don't like it, but being a non-native Anglophone, OP's cited teacher doesn't have that "built-in reality check". Commented May 31, 2023 at 10:42
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If I knew where she lived/lives now, I'd go and see her.

The verb 'knew' in the if-clause is a past tense, which means you don't know the place where she lives at the time of speaking.

The 'would' in the 'I'd' is also in the 'past form' of 'will'. which implies that the main clause — I'd go and see her — is under the influence of 'if-clause'.

You example senence is a typical of a subjunctive mood 'past' which means:

As I don't know where she lives, I can't go and see her.

The noun-cluase — where she lives — is natural with or without the adverb 'now'.

'If I had known where she lived then('now' is incorrect), I'd have gone and seen her.' means:

You didn't know in the past where she lived and couldn't go and see her.

Grammatically 'lived'+'now' is incorrrect in terms of tense agreement though 'just now' implies 'a moment ago' and goes well with the 'past form' of the verbs.

EDIT: Though 'lived now' is incorrect, your two examples are correct because the 'now' modifies the verb 'knew' and your examples are subjunctive mood.

PS. My previous answer (before edit) was focused on only 'lived now' which is included in 'where he lived now'.

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  • For what it''s worth, Google Books has 17 instances of the supposedly "incorrect" form If I knew where he was now, but only 10 of If I knew where he is now. Half of which are duplicates of the happenstance collocation I would also send a copy to our friend Story, if I knew where he is , - now I must revert to what perplexes me. Commented May 29, 2023 at 23:33
  • @FumbleFingers In "If I knew sth now", it's clear that 'now' modifies 'If I knew sth', especially 'knew', this is grammatical due to the fact that the if-clause is a subjunctive mood(past) that is used to describe a present situation the other way round: As I don't know sth now, s + v (past verb like would/could)—in this case 'would' is used instead of 'will'. This means he doesn't know "currently" where he lives. If backshifting(where he LIVED) is used, then the 'now' should modify 'knew'. You should keep in mind that the core element is if i KNEW sth NOW (subjunctive past)
    – gomadeng
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 3:46
  • How does all that explain why you say Grammatically 'lived'+'now' is incorrect, whereas Google Books clearly shows was + now is far more common than is + now? Commented May 30, 2023 at 10:10
  • @FumbleFingers The 'now' is an adverb and it modifies the subjunctive mood verb 'knew': the 'now' should be excluded from 'where he + v'.
    – gomadeng
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 11:33
  • That's as may be. But your answer seems to be saying the most common form used in writing (and probably even more so in natural speech) is "incorrect". How can the majority of native speakers be wrong? Commented May 30, 2023 at 11:41

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