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Do I have to change the sentence in bold into “If any country had challenged it, it would have lost all of its naval force easily.”?

“In the 40s, no other country would challenge the USA at sea because it had one of the most formidable navies in human history. If any country challenged the US navy, it would lose all of its naval force easily.

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  • I think you need the past conditional there. It's the past, right? Not today.
    – Lambie
    Apr 9 at 16:45
  • I would strongly suggest not writing "no other country would challenge the USA at sea" when we know for a fact that one did. Apr 11 at 12:58

1 Answer 1

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You could say

... if any country were to challenge it, that country would lose all of its naval force.

... if any country challenged it, that country would lose all of its naval force.

... if any country were to have challenged it, that country would have lost all of its naval force.

... if any country had challenged it, that country would have lost all of its naval force.

The first two are variations on the historical present, speaking of the challenge as something that might possibly happen, presenting the question of whether to challenge it as something a country could be contemplating "in real time". The second pair take a retrospective view.

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    Bravo for also correcting a problem with it referring to opposite parties: "... challenged it, it would lose." Apr 9 at 19:48
  • I think your explanation is right. The first two refer to things that might have actually happened before at that time and was definitely a possible situation. And in real history, yes, in the 40s, countries that challenged US navy indeed suffered a total destruction of their naval forces, like Japan and Germany. Apr 10 at 3:21

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