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If we go someplace else, it would be different, but maybe not as good. (Seinfeld)

It is a conditional with Present Simple in the conditional clause and would in the main clause. It is not correct, as far as I know (will should be instead of would). Do you know a way to justify it?

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  • I have been looking for such an example for a while. The last my sentence "If I give you money, would you go and buy me some fruit" was refuted, because would was used to express politeness.
    – mosceo
    Jul 4, 2013 at 16:46

2 Answers 2

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In strict usage this should be either

If we go somewhere else it will be different ... or
If we went somewhere else it would be different.

But informal use is not so demanding. In conversation, sentences have to be constructed "on the fly", without looking so far ahead that strict correspondence can be maintained. The writers/actors here reproduce this very accurately:

BANYA: You know, Jerry, I was thinking for our next meal, do you think we should come here or should we go someplace else? It has its pros and cons. On the one hand, here, you're guaranteed a great meal. On the other hand --
JERRY: Yeah, yeah, I know. This would be good, but it'd be the same. If we go someplace else, it would be different, but maybe not as good. It's a gamble.

The conversation is about choices and contingencies, where it is perfectly normal (and perfectly grammatical) to employ past-form modals with non-past reference. The parties understand what is being said without requiring strict consistency of tenses. Strict form is mandatory only in writing, where the author cannot intervene to correct the reader's misunderstandings and must therefore employ every available convention to insure that no misunderstanding arises.

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  • What about "If we go somewhere else it is different"?
    – mosceo
    Jul 4, 2013 at 17:31
  • @Graduate Form follows context, so this would be very unlikely in this context, where past form has already been established for contingency, and bleeds over into the subsequent consequence: "This would be good, but it 'd be the same" >> "would be different". It might occur in a context in which IF non-past THEN non-past has already been established: "BANYA: If we stay here, we're stuck with the same old menu. JERRY: But if we go somewhere else, it's different, right." Jul 4, 2013 at 17:39
  • What about if we were to go somewhere else?
    – Jim
    Jul 5, 2013 at 4:37
  • @Jim Demands would Jul 5, 2013 at 12:11
  • It would also be grammatical to say "If we go somewhere else, it will be different", but then it conveys certainty, rather than the possibility for uncertainty.
    – Flimzy
    Jul 6, 2013 at 4:58
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Correct is

If we go someplace else, it will be different, but maybe not as good.

The point is that the going happens in the future if it happens. So the state that will prevail in the event that it happens is a future state.

The only way to justify it is that many English-speaking people are somewhat lax in the attention that they pay to grammar.

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  • Can I make the statement more general by saying "If we go someplace else, it is different, but maybe not as good."?
    – mosceo
    Jul 4, 2013 at 17:18
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    No, that's awkward. I see what you are trying to do, for example "If I go to Walmart, I get crabby" or "If I drink too much my nose turns red." In such a case, if has the sense of whenever: "Whenever I go to Walmart I get crabby." I'm not getting that flavor with your sentence. Here is a good in-depth overview of conditional sentences that you might find helpful.
    – BobRodes
    Jul 4, 2013 at 17:36
  • Bob, so, if it is true that something can happen in the future, can one apply to other tenses, present and past, the same conclusions without violating the grammar rules?
    – user114
    Jul 4, 2013 at 18:09
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    The short answer to your question is yes. For example, "if I had gone somewhere else, it would have been different" is correct. For further examples, have a look at the link I posted.
    – BobRodes
    Jul 4, 2013 at 18:14
  • You're very welcome.
    – BobRodes
    Jul 5, 2013 at 5:47

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