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?


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, 2016 at 23:00

1 Answer 1


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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