When we talk about unreal past, do we mean the use only of past simple/continuous to describe an imaginary/hypothetical situation? For instance:

• Supposing I gave you my permission, would you go?

• Supposing I had given you my permission, would you have gone?

In the first sentence unreal past is used. But in the second one?
I don't think the second one describes a past action, but an imaginary, past action. So, are the verbs in both of the sentences in unreal past?

  • They both refer to something hypothetically in the past especially since Supposing is the big red flag. Both sentences are correct and understandable.
    – Peter
    Feb 7 '16 at 11:07

The first sentence talks about something that hasn't happened but could still happen. In this context, I may give you my permission (in the future), and you may decide to go. It is in fact a hypothetical question about the future. This is an example of the second conditional. See more info here.

In contrast, the second sentence clearly talks about an unreal past. There is no possibility of changing the fact that permission has not been given, and you have not gone. The past is completely determined (perfect). This is an example of the third conditional. You can read more about it here.

  • The second sentence talks about unreal past. But it is not imaginary or hypothetical, like the first one (which is unreal as well). Right?
    – V.Lydia
    Feb 7 '16 at 15:15
  • 1
    It is imaginary, by the fact that it exists only in the mind of the people discussing it; it is not real. The difference between the two conditionals is the possibility (2nd) vs. Impossibility (3rd) of the condition. Feb 7 '16 at 15:48

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