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The lyrics say

If I say no, if I resist

Would it be a lesson or a loss?

(Seal with Buika, from the song You Get Me).

How can I justify the use of would in the 1st conditional?

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  • This may answer your question.
    – tvk
    Commented Jun 7, 2022 at 14:05

2 Answers 2

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You might as well ask

How do I justify the use of the present tense (say, ask) in the second conditional?

That is, how do you know whether the speaker is talking about a "real" or "unreal" condition? An open or hypothetical situation?

You can't, simply by the tenses used, because native speakers do not stick to those EFL structures known as zero, first, second, third, conditional. This system was devised to teach non-native speakers what might be going on in a particular utterance. They give examples of verb patterns that can be used to express certain meanings. But the sentences and utterances produced in real life do not adhere to these patterns. The language native speakers use is a lot more messy than those paradigms. There are many more tense combinations available to the native speaker than those given in the typical EFL class or text. In addition, one speaker might express something differently from the next. Someone might actually deviate from what is taught as "standard grammar."

You have interpreted this utterance as expressing a present real condition; I might interpret it as a present unreal condition. You can't expect native speakers to adhere to paradigms that exist only in the EFL classroom.

Whether this utterance expresses a condition that can be fulfilled or not might more easily be determined had you provided more than two lines of lyric. But not necessarily so, since in song, language can vary widely from prosaic language. There may or may not be enough context in the rest of the lyrics to determine the issue, but I'm not going to go fetch more lyrics. Perhaps you could.

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I have never learned conditional sentences as zero, first, second or third conditional. Anyway the use of would is similar to will with a slight difference of meaning or perception.

You could as well use will in place of would there, but there shall be a slight difference of meaning. The sentence with will is more direct, I mean it sounds like it is bound to happen in the future. But from the context it's clear that this might happen, might not happen, but possibly will happen. So in this kind of situation it's favourable to use would.

An example from British Council website:

It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel.

We use would to talk about hypotheses, about something which is possible but not real, to talk about the result or effect of a possible situation.

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