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Suppose this sentence

It would be helpful if you were to precede the report with an introduction.

I just cannot figure out why in this sentence, author used "were to precede". In my opinion shouldn't author use "preceded" instead?

If this sentence is already correct, how can we parse it? What's its tense?

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    "were to" has a different usage of only "were" . So you should study on "were to" or "was to". ell.stackexchange.com/questions/15276/… – Mrt Feb 16 '15 at 19:03
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    englishpage.com/conditional/wereto.html – Mrt Feb 16 '15 at 19:06
  • @Murat Thanks very much, your second link was very helpful for me. – frogatto Feb 16 '15 at 19:20
  • @FumbleFingers, using "proceed" is plain wrong. The statement says that putting an introduction before (preceding, in front of) the report would be helpful. Using "proceed" instead would be a typo, introducing gibberish. – A.Beth Feb 16 '15 at 22:43
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    Sentences don't have tense, verbs do. The two finite verbs (would and were) are both past tense. Precede and be are not tensed. (There is no was-were realis-irrealis contrast to be made here, since the subject of were is you, so that topic can be ignored here.) – snailplane Feb 17 '15 at 9:58
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It would be helpful if you were to precede the report with an introduction.

The sentence is correct.

The meaning of the sentence is that it would help if the report-writer added an introduction to the beginning of the report. (So the introduction would precede the actual report.)

As mentioned by @murat in the comments, this other post is of interest.

Essentially, this is the subjunctive mood, which is used primarily for hypothetical situations. From the linked Wikipedia article:

typically used to express various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred.

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