The thin husband retorts that his child is an only son, meaning that, should he die at the front, a father’s grief would be all the more profound. The other man refuses to see that this makes any difference. “You may spoil your son with excessive attentions, but you cannot love...

If he dies, , a father’s grief would be all the more profound

If he died, , a father’s grief would be all the more profound

Would you please tell me if the bold parts mean the same thing?-- I think the bold parts or sentences are conditional sentences.

What about italic sentence?

Any comment would be appreciated

  • 1
    Yes, the bold parts have exactly the same meaning (also equivalent if he should die...). The should structure is slightly more formal; if he dies... is similar but implies a slightly different sense
    – blgt
    Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 10:48
  • Your question is not clear. Can you please rewrite it clarifying what exactly your question is. And please format the question for better readability. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 4:18
  • at first reading I had made a comment that all these sentences mean the same. However after re-reading your question i found that there is a little difference between if he dies and if he died - the former means it is likely and the latter means it is highly unlike. You might want to refer to my other answer (ell.stackexchange.com/questions/49341/…)
    – Leo
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


The construct is strange here, but it's one of the workarounds English uses to avoid the imperfect subjunctive.

"Should he die at the front" is the same in meaning as, "If he were to die at the front".

This tense is normally substituted with the present or imperfect, as you've written. "If he were to die" is replaced with "If he died" or "If he dies".

Normally us Brits use the past tense here. "If he dies" makes the event sound probable instead of hypothetical. "If he died" is more hypothetical.

TL;DR: bold parts are identical (though the second bold is slightly less formal); the line in italics isn't quite the same as that construct makes the event less hypothetical.

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