First post here. I wanted to thank one of the forum members in an online course I was attending for sharing his experience. I wrote this message.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Its heartening to hear what you made out of this course. It would be great if more of the alumni come forward and share their experiences.

Should the highlighted verbs be Present or Past tense? Does it make any difference?

Please note that I am an ESL Student.

  • 3
    Hi sreenivas, welcome to ELL. For the future, note that ideally we'd prefer you only ask about a single issue on each question. Rest assured that the alumni is quite correct in this context, but idiomatically most native speakers would prefer came forward and shared. Apr 23, 2013 at 20:33
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks for your reply! Sure I will try to ask one issue per question next time.re: came forward and shared Yes, what you said make sense but can you give some explanation as to what makes it sound more correct. I tried googling but of no help.
    – sreenivas
    Apr 24, 2013 at 5:14
  • @ sreenivas: English isn't designed by a committee working to a coherent set of principles, so mainly the explanation is simply "that's how people usually say it". Strictly, "It would be good if you were to do something", but native speakers are increasingly less keen on such "subjunctive" constructions. As it's a hypothetical scenario, we prefer past tense, because present tense is more associated with the "real, here and now" world, rather than the "imaginary" one that would (not does) exist. Apr 24, 2013 at 12:52
  • ...I've edited your question to focus on this specific point, so maybe it will be reopened and answered more thoroughly. Apr 24, 2013 at 12:57
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Your edit changed the meaning of the question. Originally, the OP asked about grammaticality, but focused on using the before alumni; now the question is asking about using the present tense or the paste tense.
    – apaderno
    Apr 24, 2013 at 14:35

1 Answer 1


In OP's context, the modal auxiliary verb would establishes the "if-clause" as a conditional, hypothetical scenario. This can be reflected using the subjunctive verb form (plus infinitive)...

It would be good if they were to come forward

...but as that link says, the subjunctive is a special, relatively rare verb form in English - so in practice, native speakers tend to avoid it.

It's often said that English only really has two basic tenses - Present, and "non-Present" (usually, but sometimes misleadingly called Past tense). Because Present tense is more associated with the "real, here and now" world, rather than OP's "imaginary" scenario, we normally use Simple Past...

It would be nice if he came (3310 hits on Google Books)
It would be nice if he comes (1 hit)
It would be nice if he were to come (1 hit)

It would be good if they did that (6740 hits)
It would be good if they do that (3 hits)
It would be good if they were to do that (2 hits)

  • What about "it would be good if (they) would come forward"?
    – Hellion
    Apr 29, 2013 at 17:27
  • @Hellion: Well, it's certainly "grammatically valid" to simply repeat the modal verb. But again, I think it's just not a form we use very often. But I note would be good if they would come gets 4 hits, where there are only 8 for would be good if they came Apr 29, 2013 at 20:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .