2

While I find it pretty intuitive with non-conditional sentences, I can't wrap my head around the proper sequence of tenses in utterances that utilize conditionals.

  1. I'll make sure you will be/are safe.

I'm pretty sure that second will is redundant, yet I've heard such sentences being spoken that way numerous times, and eventually it left me baffled. Personally I'd opt for the "are" option.

  1. Imagine you are a famous actor invited to Academy Awards Ceremony. You would surely do your best to make people remember you and not cause any scandal. You would take care of your hair, invest in a stunning suit and even rent an unextraordinary limo so that people would be dazzled.

I'm not 100% positive whether these sentences are comprehensible and correct. If I make longer predictions using "would", is the single use of that modal verb enough, or should I somehow repeat it with separated verbs a few times throughout the utterance, to make it all more viable? Or perhaps the last part could well go away with "so that people ARE dazzled"?

  1. If you were trapped in a cell not unlike the one known from The Pit and the Pendulum, where your ankles were/are being constantly bitten by the army of hungry rats, what would you do to escape?

I guess this example puzzles me the most. Again, I'm imagining an unreal situation, but I want my description to be robust, yet confined within one sentence. Should I stick to the past tense because of the conditional, or do the rats take a lively part in my vision and thus are animated with the present tense?

1

Since this one puzzles you the most:

If you were trapped in a cell not unlike the one known from The Pit and the Pendulum, where your ankles were/are being constantly bitten by the army of hungry rats, what would you do to escape?

You ask: "Should I stick to the past tense because of the conditional, or do the rats take a lively part in my vision and thus are animated with the present tense?"

As you have surmised, the switch to present-continuous "are being bitten" has an effect upon the imagined situation akin to that which the historical present can have upon a narrative cast largely in the past tense: it "animates" the vision and makes it more "lively".

So it's not a matter of which is correct ("should") but which nuance you wish to impart.

I'll make sure you're safe catapults the person making the assurances, and the person he is speaking to, into the future: "I'll be there for you when the time comes."

0
  1. To me, it depends if assurance is needed immediately or for the future. For example, "Come with me now and I'll make sure you are safe," or "I'll call ahead and make sure you will be safe."

  2. That paragraph is coherent and consistent as is, and would is my choice. However, I'd rent [hire, if British] an extraordinary limo.

  3. To be consistent with "were trapped", I'd use "were... bitten".

As a matter of style, try to stick with the same tense.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.