1

On a website (Quora.com) I read the following question and answer:

Did the US President Clinton really stop Pakistan from nuking India in 1999 and save india?

Answer:

If they had, they would have been saving Pakistan, not India.

Why he did not say they would have saved Pakistan ?

What is the difference ?

Thank you.

  • "If they had" is not specific enough. nuking or stopped from nuking? – user3169 Jun 11 '16 at 23:00
2

I believe you will find the nuance expressed by the progressive here addressed at this question: where the simple construction asserts the fact of the action, the progressive ascribes a character or quality to it.

This use is typically found in contrastive situations like that in your example, where the speaker/writer is concerned to draw a distinction between two interpretations of an event or action:

He wasn’t serious, he was just joking. (not "he just joked")

The contrast often addresses a distinction of motive, and it may be that your writer is saying that President Clinton's intention was to save Pakistan rather than India; but I think it more likely that the writer means that if Pakistan had nuked India India would have responded with such ferocity that Pakistan would have been destroyed.

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