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In type 1 conditional sentences, the time is the present or future and the situation is real in both clauses. In type 3 conditionals, the time is the past in both clauses. In Type 2 conditionals, the main clause time frame is now or future.

Question: I haven't seen any time frame mentioned in type 2 conditionals for the conditional (if) clause.

If I am constructing a mixed condition as in the examples:

  1. If he were my buddy, he would have helped me. (conditional clause 2nd conditional, main clause 3rd conditional)
  2. If I were not afraid of centipedes, I would not have shouted then. (same mixed type as in the first example)

Now, as per my understanding, for the examples to be correct, the time frame in the conditional clause has to be now or always. This is because the main clause happened in the past which means he was not my buddy then. Similarly, I was afraid of centipedes then (in the past time when I shouted).

Please clarify and correct me if I am wrong.

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  • Main clause is not in the past but in unreality. Paraphrase: If he is truly my friend he would have helped me. Perhaps he is your enemy. But not a true friend.
    – TimR
    Nov 29, 2023 at 13:46
  • If you want to speak of a past situation that was contrary to fact, you could say "If he had been my friend, he would have helped me." If he and I had been friends at the time.
    – TimR
    Nov 29, 2023 at 13:52
  • Our question is pertaining to typical mixed conditionals and the time frame of the conditional clause in the second conditional. I know that 'were' in "If I were rich" is not past tense, but a distance from reality. Yeah, what you have said in your second comment is third conditional ( things that did not happen or we say 'missed chances/oppertunities). I had mentioned the third conditionals at the start of my question..
    – brp7
    Nov 29, 2023 at 14:24
  • "If I won a lottery, I would go for a world tour." Here, the main clause has a time frame of now or future. I think the time frame for conditional seems like now or future (not sure). BUT in the mixed conditional of my question, 'he would have helped me' is something that didn't happen in the past and it is pertaining to past. So what could be the time frame of "If he were my buddy?" Shouldn't it be now or always?
    – brp7
    Nov 29, 2023 at 14:29
  • All if clauses are suppositions; they are not "real". And in conditional, there is only a past conditional. In the second conditional: If I went, I would see him. went is not a past tense. It is a supposition. If he were my buddy, we wouldn't have these problems. Another example of that. Condition contrary to fact is a good way to remember it.
    – Lambie
    Nov 29, 2023 at 17:59

2 Answers 2

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Mixed conditional: If he were my buddy, he would have helped me. (conditional clause 2nd conditional, main clause 3rd conditional)

The supposition about "if he were my buddy" is a general supposition. Compare it to:

If he had been my buddy [which he is now], he would have helped me.

This is similar to: "She said he is a nice man". [nice man is a general thing that continues to apply at all times. Compared to:
"She said he was a nice man" She said that he "was" that.

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  • I agree and have upvoted. What we discussed is a second conditional counterfactual condition. Now, my understanding is that the time frame in the conditional clause of "If I won a lottery, I would go for a world tour." (This example is not counterfactual and impossible, but very improbable) is 'now or the future" as the little chance of winning the lottery cannot happen in the past. Please clarify.
    – brp7
    Dec 2, 2023 at 13:50
  • @brp7 The difference between If I win the lottery, I will go. etc. versus If I won the lottery, I would go. etc. is the degree of probability.
    – Lambie
    Dec 2, 2023 at 15:16
  • Yea. I am aware of that. (would is used as opposed to will for less possibility). Could you address the time frame in this condition as it is not counterfactual?
    – brp7
    Dec 2, 2023 at 16:46
  • I'm not sure what you mean at all. If I won the lottery [but I haven't. so this is counterfactual], I would go on a world tour. All conditionals except past conditional which expresses a counterfactual in the past.
    – Lambie
    Dec 2, 2023 at 19:00
  • "If I won a lottery..." has a slight chance of occurrence in comparison with 'If I were you, I wouldn't do that." The second case is counterfactual (impossible) as I cannot be you. *************************************************************************************** Quoting: "The second conditional is used to imagine present or future situations that are impossible OR unlikely in reality. source: learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/b1-b2-grammar/…
    – brp7
    Dec 2, 2023 at 20:11
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By definition, the Second Conditional implies a hypothetical situation in the present or future and its hypothetical result in the present/future.

If the weather was better (now or generally), we could have a picnic.

What would Bill do if there was an earthquake (now or in future) in the area?

So, technically, you're right.

In fact, there're 2 types of Mixed Conditionals and in both of them the 2-nd Conditional indicates the present time.


Type I:

Third Conditional (if-clause) + Second Conditional (main clause)

Usage: Hypothetical conditions in the past and their results in the present.

If Bill had won the lottery, he wouldn't be playing with us (now or "always" depending on the context).

You might not be in so much trouble if you hadn't started gambling.

Type II:

Second Conditional (if-clause) + Third Conditional (main clause)

Usage: Hypothetical conditions in the present and their results in the past.

If Bill knew about computers, he would have applied for that job.

I would have made Bill buy a lottery ticket if I were you.


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  • Let us take your example. In that, the main clause says "he would have applied for that job" That is something in the past. That implies that Bill never knew about computers in the past as well. If you take an example like " If I won a lottery," then the time frame is now or in the future ( as we can't win a lottery in the past). So putting both types of examples, what I infer is that the conditional clause time frame has to be "now or always." Hope you understand.
    – brp7
    Nov 29, 2023 at 17:42
  • Yeah, the 2-nd conditional if-clause time frame can be described as "now or always", and in some scenarios, "in future". Ex: "If Bill had won the lottery, he would go and buy a car (in future)". However, in the example "If I won a lottery, I would ..." conditional clause doesn't really refer to the future but rather hypothetical current state of having won the lottery.
    – Andrew
    Nov 29, 2023 at 18:48
  • It's not a mistake. The sentence is grammatical. But if you want to refer to the future (you're anticipating winning a lottery or imagining how you win the lottery) I'd recommend using First Conditional: "If I win the lottery, I'll go on a world tour".
    – Andrew
    Nov 29, 2023 at 19:32
  • Oh you mean that. That is a typical type 2 sentence. I wanted to say that the time frame is now or the future as opposed to our initial question. An exact replica example would be "If I became the president, I would support green energy projects. (It is improbable that I will become president.) The 'would' in type 2 as opposed to 'will' is used to show a very low chance of occurrence. Type 2 example 3. If I met my favourite actor, I would ask for a photo with her. (It is improbable that I will meet my favourite actor.). In all the examples, it is NOT counterfactual but least probable.
    – brp7
    Nov 29, 2023 at 19:54
  • Now I see… Yeah, that makes sense.
    – Andrew
    Nov 29, 2023 at 20:34

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