I think it would be better if you left/ leave now.

Kimaunz

Senior Member
Korean - South Korea
I saw "I think it would be better if you left now." in Are You Afraid of the Dark? as in the following. Can you say "I think it would be better if you leave now." instead in the following context?:

< ---- > He winced in pain. < ---- > He began to choke.
The priest turned to Diane. 'I think it would be better if you left now.'
 
  • SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I saw "I think it would be better if you left now." in Are You Afraid of the Dark? as in the following. Can you say "I think it would be better if you leave now." instead in the following context?:

    < ---- > He winced in pain. < ---- > He began to choke.
    The priest turned to Diane. 'I think it would be better if you left now.'
    Can you say "If you leave now"? Sure, and people often do. Either way, leave or left, the clause is introduced by "if," which introduces what the speakers wishes.

    It's true that some grammar books teach learners that the past "tense" must be used, on grounds that it's "grammatically correct." The advise doesn't hold up to scrutiny (nothing has happened or is happening, so there is no "tense" involved). Some use the term "irrealis" rather than "past tense," because it's all hypothetical, but it's just a different label, and neither label gets to the core issue. Even assuming that the claims about correct grammar are indeed "correct," language/communication is more than just grammar. Pragmatics -- a separate branch of linguistics that deals with how context influences language -- is just as or even more important. And so some speakers use "leave" to link speech to the moment of speaking (the "now"). That's all that's going on, and speakers do this intuitively.

    All that said, of course you are free to follow the "past tense" advise, and do this automatically whenever you run into an "if' clause, as some leaners do. Nothing wrong with that, and you might say that learners benefit in that they don't have to think about it. There is just no correct or incorrect issue involved here. Syntax is entirely neutral. People speak as they do based on their own particular idiolect (idiolect = the speech patterns of a particular speaker).
     
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