This is a sentence from the BBC:

If you think now on a company like Spotify, where we already pay out almost 70% of our revenues back to the creative community, if we were to take the 30% out of our cut it essentially means we're left with zero, which means we have to close shop.

In my understanding, 'if we were to' is in the second conditional because it's an imaginary situation. The zero conditional is used in 'it essentially means' because 70% + 30% =100% is a mathematical fact. In this case, should we see this as a mixed conditional use? Or does it become better if we change 'if essentially means' to 'it would essentially mean'? And how may this be related to spoken/written English differences?

  • Some connector is missing: "If you think now ... , [and] if we were to take." Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 15:14
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    It's clumsy. I know they want to avoid 'if we take', and the alternative needs four would's. Perhaps disguising the mismatch with a separate sentence is better: << If we were to take the 30% out of our cut this would be the result. Essentially, we're left with zero, which means we have to close shop. >> Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 16:16
  • +1 to Edwin. It technically is a mismatch in verb tense. If you were to be technically correct, it would be "... if we were to take ... it would essentially mean". In spoken English, conditional verb tenses can often be mismatched, but because it's so common, it doesn't necessarily sound out of place, despite being technically incorrect.
    – Dieter Johann
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 17:18
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    The quote seems to be by Daniel Ek, head of Spotify at bbc.co.uk/news/technology-66882414 . As a long and complicated oral sentence by a fluent but non-native speaker, you should not expect full consistency of tense or mood.
    – Henry
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


As @Henry helpfully shares in a comment, this is not a quote "from the BBC," but an oral interview quote published there. The speaker, Daniel Ek, is not bound by BBC writing standards, and is speaking out loud in the meandering manner of unscripted thoughts.

No, this particular mixing of conditionals is not prescriptively correct. It is, of course, perfectly understandable, and a natural thing to come out of an unplanned sentence.

  • What a lovely and clear answer. Not a harsh word yet taking no sh!t, either. Commented Dec 16, 2023 at 23:36

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