# When they passed the admission test, they would enter the university. - if he doesn't even have a child yet, is this construction correct?

Example 1

Hey, Amy. If you guys had a child, you would have to take care of them until they turned 18. When they passed the admission test, they would enter the university. It would mean you would spend a lot of money. Are the verbs being used correctly?

This is an imaginary scenario that is unlikely to happen. Is this the correct way to describe it?

Example 2

Hey, Amy. If you guys have a child, you will have to take care of them until they turn 18. When they pass the admission test, they will enter the university. It will mean you will spend a lot of money.

This is an imaginary scenario that is more likely to happen than Example 1. Is this the correct way to describe it? Are the verbs being used correctly?

• Not so much that ( 1) is being seen as 'unlikely' - it's a hypothesis (something that could happen) as opposed to (2) which is a prediction (something that will happen). It would be more natural to begin (2) with 'When you have a child". Commented Jan 24 at 16:49
• Are you certain that this hypothetical child is able to pass the admission test? Does every child pass? If you are not certain, then use "...If they pass the admission test..." Commented Jan 24 at 17:09
• I don't think "when they passed... they would..." is correct in any scenario. "When they pass... they will..." if it is certain, or "if they pass... they will..." if there is doubt. Commented Jan 24 at 21:49
• @KateBunting because I don't know whether they are going to produce a child. Some people even choose to be childless. So, Are both examples correct? Commented Jan 25 at 1:44
• Because you don't know, you would use the hypothetical "If you had a child, you would...". You might use (2) if you knew they were planning to start a family. Commented Jan 25 at 9:30

The verb in the "when" clause is normally present tense, so "when they pass..." or "when they have passed" are possible. You take the perspective of that time. You can use "will enter" since the use of "when" indicates that you don't have any doubt that the child will pass the test.

However the example is problematic, because passing a test, especially the tests for university, is normally uncertain. Not every child passes. So it would be better to write " ... if you had a child you would take care of them until they turn 18" (Having a child is hypothetical, but I am reasonably certain that this hypothetical child will turn 18). "If they pass the admission test, they will/would enter university." (This is a further hypothesis, about a future event, so I use "if". I could use "will" or "would", both work)

So, simply, "When they turn 18 they will ...." but "If they pass the test, they would ..."

• My struggle with example 1 is that the child is hypothetical, so I think all the verbs including "turn", "pass" should be about a hypothetical situation. That's why I wrote all of them in past tense and used "would". But according to what you said, that's not necessary? Commented Jan 26 at 1:36
• How about example 2. Is everything there correct? Commented Jan 26 at 1:38
• example 2 also uses "when they pass" instead of "if they pass" Commented Jan 26 at 6:57