Conditional (2): Modals in both parts? If I could speak five languages, I would be very glad.

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nikkieli

Senior Member
Bulgaria, Bulgarian
Hi, again,
A colleague of mine wrote this:
If I could speak five languages, I would be very glad.
In the two clauses he used 2 modals in the past and we have been taught that in the second conditional sentences one of the clauses only employs a modal in the past. According to this rule the sentence should be:
If I spoke 5 languages, I would be very glad.
Please, coment on these two sample sentences and say if the former is as acceptable as the latter.
 
  • Notquitegenius

    Senior Member
    US, English
    There is nothing wrong with the first sentence. While in this case the second sentence has the same meaning, this isn't always true. For example:
    The sentence "If I could end world hunger, I would do it," cannot be changed in that way.
     
    There is nothing wrong with the first sentence. While in this case the second sentence has the same meaning, this isn't always true. For example:
    The sentence "If I could end world hunger, I would do it," cannot be changed in that way.
    This raises a slightly different matter here. "can/could" are often used more extensively as almost meaningless stylistic units in English than their equivalents in other languages. In these cases , like your first sentence, they are not used so much as modals but as simply stylistic features.
     
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