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It'd be great if you showed me the paintings you had drawn.

It'd be great if you showed me the paintings you have drawn.

Are both the above sentences grammatically correct?

Should I backshift when constructing hypothetical sentences,or when I'm using past tense to be polite?

What's the difference in their meaning?

  • 2
    I prefer the second one greatly. – Alex K Dec 8 '15 at 19:36
  • As an aside, we don't normally use commas in a sentence like It would be great if you... – stangdon Dec 8 '15 at 19:50
  • The verb "showed" is a preterite (has a past-tense form), but it does not really refer to the past. This preterite form indicates "modal remoteness", because we have a conditional construction ("if - then"). The author of the sentence is unsure whether that guy would really show the paintings. Thus, there's no need for backshifting. A good question, by the way. It will be great if someone gives a clear answer. – CowperKettle Dec 8 '15 at 20:04
  • The modal remoteness invoked by "would be ... if" does not affect the tense of the verb in the reduced clause you had|have drawn; if affects only the verb showed. The reduced clause could have "you will draw, you drew, you are drawing, you have drawn, you had drawn" as context requires. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 8 '15 at 22:43
  • @TRomano, take a look at the question i posted here a few hours ago. IT concerns the same topic – lekon chekon Apr 3 '16 at 11:16
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It'd be great if you showed me the paintings you had drawn.

In Sentence #1, You Had Drawn is Past Perfect, and Showed is also past tense. In order for verb-tense agreement, and formality, be also needs to be past-tense. The sentence then becomes:

It would have been great if you showed me the painting you had drawn.

If you are in The Present, and you want to see the paintings this person had drawn, you would use Sentence #2.

If you are in the present, and it comes about that there are paintings you have not seen and therefore cannot comment on, then Sentence #1 is appropriate.

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I would say a subtle difference in meaning, for me, is:

It'd be great if you showed me the paintings you had drawn (last year).

You drew the paintings, went on to something else, and are now going back to them to show me what you did.

It'd be great if you showed me the paintings you have drawn (today).

You recently drew something and want to review it, for example a teacher asking: "Show me what you have drawn in class", as opposed to, "Show me what you had drawn as a 5 years old." Using drew loses this subtlety.

It'd be great if you showed me the paintings you drew.

BTW, some people may argue that paintings are not drawn...

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