expression "when the chips are down" and verb-tense

Discussion in 'English Only' started by teacup2, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. teacup2 Senior Member

    Finnish
    Hello helpers,

    Which verb tenses would be correct to use?

    1. He calculated that when the chips are down, the enemy will not react.
    2. He calculated that when the chips are down, the enemy would not react.
    3. He calculated that when the chips were down, the enemy would not react.

    Numbers 2 and 3 would fit the idea of my text better.

    And although I think one shouldn't ask two questions, I still wonder whether it is idiomatic to use the verb "calculate".

    Many thanks in advance!
     
  2. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    This is the one that seems most natural to me. 'Calculating' seems a natural verb choice too.
     
  3. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    This is one of those rare cases where modifying a set phrase (when the chips are down) works. Most of the time changing something as minor as the tense will make a set phrase sound strange, or even unrecognizable.

    I (AE) also prefer #3 above the other two.

    Not answering the second question, but if I were to answer it, the answer would be "yes".
     

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