2nd/3d conditionals

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YourSunlight

Banned
Russian
Hi!

Do I get it correctly that this sentence doesn't make sense:

If he ate chocolate, he would get an allergic reaction. He's allergic to it.

How should I translate this sentence?

Does it mean that if he did that IN GENERAL (every day/twice a week and so on), he would get an allergic reaction each time.

Can it mean that he has already eaten it (right now) and that's why it's possible that he may get such a reaction?
Or should it be if he had eaten chocolate, we would have got an allergic reaction.

Does the initial sentence make sense?
 
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The sentence is ambiguous; it can refer to the past or the future.

    In either case if he ate chocolate does not really tell us whether he ate it.
    But it can also mean Whenever he ate chocolate, he had a reaction.

    Do you not have a context?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The meaning of the sentence depends on the context.

    A: "Aaaaah! John is unconscious on the floor! And there, look! Some chocolate!"
    B: "Hmm... It could be an allergic reaction. If he ate chocolate, he would get an allergic reaction. He's allergic to it."

    C: Doctor, what would happen to John if he [ever] ate chocolate?
    Doc: If he [ever] ate chocolate, he would get an allergic reaction. He's allergic to it.

    E: "My husband was strange, if he ate chocolate, he would get an allergic reaction. - He still ate it though. He's dead now."

    Etc.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm with E2E4 on this.

    I don't see Paul's A & B as a possible context.

    When the 2nd conditional form is referring to a past event, it's talking almost always about a habitual past, not about an individual instance, as in Paul's A/B scenario.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I don't see Paul's A & B as a possible context.
    You do not watch enough detective films. Speculation as to the cause/method is done in this way:

    "It looks like he had a key and came in through the door."
    "That is impossible, if he came in through the door he would trigger the alarm.... No, he was cleverer than that..."
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You do not watch enough detective films. Speculation as to the cause/method is done in this way:

    "It looks like he had a key and came in through the door."
    "That is impossible, if he came in through the door he would trigger the alarm.... No, he was cleverer than that..."
    That's a correct use, in the context of an imagined historic present - Let's imagine ourselves back to the time before he came in through the door - what E2E4 calls a future use. It's one of the standard forms of the 2nd conditional.

    Had the detective wished to talk of an individual instance in the past, and been a moderately educated person, he would have needed the form I've just used, the 3rd conditional, and said If he had come through the door he would have triggered the alarm.

    So I take back what I said about your context for A/B being impossible.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Paul, the way I see it, the problem is not with 'if he came/ate...' Those could easily refer to the past when we have no clue what really happened. The problem is that 'he would trigger the alarm' suggests he might YET trigger the alarm. If it referred to the past, I would expect 'he would have triggered the alarm' - if the alarm was not triggered. Or, maybe, 'he will have triggered the alarm' - if we suppose it was, indeed, triggered. As regards the original example, I take it to refer clearly to the hypothetical/unlikely present/future.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It could refer to a habitual past, couldn't it, Boozer?

    If he ate chocolate, he would always come out in spots.

    I expect there are people of whom this is true.

    There were boys at my school who would come out in spots for no apparent reason at all.
     
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    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If If he came in through the door refers to the past, I would write:
    If he came in/had come in through the door, he would have triggered the alarm.
    If you used the mixed 2nd/3rd form, E2E4 - If he came in through the door, he would have triggered the alarm - you would be talking of a habit of his - coming in through the door (as opposed to the window or the skylight (?)) - and what it would have brought about on this occasion - the triggering of the alarm.

    I think it would be more usual to talk of this door in such circumstances. The form is entirely possible, but not the form we are asked about in the OP.
     
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    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Sure, TT, it could easily be habitual past. Just did not think of that. It could, as Paul says, be speculation about what happened in the past, but the problem I see is that the second part (he would trigger the alarm) does not fit the bill, for me.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't see any habitual meaning in If he came in through the door (talking about a past occasion, i.e. not meaning If he were to come in).
    I see no need to say If he had come in, which is also possible.
    The detective is speculating about what happened: did he come in through the door or through the window?
    Perhaps you could follow it up with he would trigger the alarm, but I prefer to use the past perfect.
     
    Last edited:
    I don't see any habitual meaning in If he came in through the door (talking about a past occasion, i.e. not meaning If he were to come in).
    I see no need to say I he had come in, which is also possible.
    The detective is speculating about what happened: did he come in through the door or through the window? :thumbsup:
    Perhaps you could follow it up with he would trigger the alarm, but I prefer to use the past perfect.
    I don't see any "habitual" meaning at all here either.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't see any habitual meaning in If he came in through the door (talking about a past occasion, i.e. not meaning If he were to come in).[...]
    I'm interested in this. I simply gave the classic reading of the mixed 2nd/3rd conditional.

    The if clause refers to an ongoing event - ie. something he was in the habit of doing then, and still does now.

    A classic case would be for an ongoing physical condition eg. If you were not blind, you would have seen the dog coming - ongoing condition. (mixed 2nd/3rd)

    As opposed to If you had not been looking the other way, you would have seen the dog coming - individual instance. (3rd)

    The point about If you had not been blind, you would have seen the dog coming - individual instance (3rd), is that it doesn't carry the automatic implication that you still are blind.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Sure, TT, it could easily be habitual past. Just did not think of that. It could, as Paul says, be speculation about what happened in the past, but the problem I see is that the second part (he would trigger the alarm) does not fit the bill, for me.
    How about the child who used to come out in spots? Maybe you didn't have any of them at your school.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    For the record: Initially I did not see any habitual-past meaning either. However, TT argues, and I agree with him, that the tenses used and the verb forms could, under the right conditions, be used to express that meaning.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    The spots example... tough one. It looks and sounds like a zero or first conditional in the past tense, TT - he came out in spots every time he ate chocolate. . Which, again, means that the verb forms used in the original example can be used to express the meaning you suggest.
     
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