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Is there any difference between these sentences?

  1. "If anything happened to her, I would help her."

  2. "If anything was to happen to her, I would help her."

  3. "If anything is to happen to her, I will help her."

To me sound like the third sentence conveys that it is more likely to happen something to the girl than in the second or first sentence. But I can't see the difference between the first and the second sentence, besides the second one being somewhat more formal.

1

If anything happens to her, I will help her. This is presented as a real future possibility. Many student grammars and course books call this a 'first conditional' sentence.

If anything is to happen to her, I will help her. This sentence would be natural only if the speaker knew that something was planned to happen.

If anything happened to her, I would help her. This is presented as a hypothetical situation, a less real possibility than in the first sentence. Many student grammars and course books call this a 'second conditional' sentence.

If anything was/were to happen to her, I would help her. This is simply a slightly more formal version of the third sentence.

Note that, while was/were to is natural, if formal, in second conditional sentences, with no real change of meaning if they are not used, 'am/are/is to' in first conditional sentences always convey some idea of a plan or obligation.

0

Very brief, & I'm no grammarian, but...

  1. General worry about a possible future situation.
  2. Same, but a more passive structure. Perhaps implies a specific possible scenario, or a greater emotional distance from the subject - though I'd also say 'better English' in writing, if not conversation.
  3. Sense of impending doom. The situation is unfolding right now.

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