if clause

Art2

New Member
russian
Hi, I have such a question:

Is the sentence “ Were the workers prepared to accept the wage cut, the shop wouldn’t have had to shut downcorrect?
It seems to me that the action in the second clause refers to the past, then the first clause should be “ Had the workers been prepared to accept the wage cut”…

What puzzles me is the first clause that should be in the perfect. Am I right?
 
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  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    As cropje says, both are correct.

    In the sentence as written, "were" in the "if clause" means that the workers are not willing to accept wage cuts in the present. The result clause "the shop wouldn't have" shows a result in the past of this unwillingness.

    Similarly, I might say:
    "If I were able to sing [I can't sing], I would have trained to be an opera singer [when I was young]."

    Your suggested revision, "if the workers had been", is also grammatical, but has a slightly different meaning. It would tell us that the workers were not willing to accept lower wages at some time in the past. It doesn't tell us whether they later changed their minds.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    The first part of the clause, "were the workers prepared to accept..." as well as Cagey's "If I were able to sing..." are in the past subjunctive, and I found this statement in Wikipedia (follow the above link) supporting both your suggestions at the same time:
    The pluperfect subjunctive is often replaced with the past subjunctive in colloquial speech, a substitution that is commonly considered incorrect.
    To me, something which is considered correct by the majority of native speakers cannot be considered incorrect... :D

    /Wilma
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Well, no matter how acceptable anyone else finds it, I find any declarative sentence that begins with "Were ..." to be distinctly odd. This is described as an "if clause", but WHERE is the "if"?????

    Now, had the sentence been "If the workers were prepared...", or "If the workers had been prepared...", I would not have found the sentence strange at all.
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    Well, no matter how acceptable anyone else finds it, I find any declarative sentence that begins with "Were ..." to be distinctly odd. This is described as an "if clause", but WHERE is the "if"?????

    Now, had the sentence been "If the workers were prepared...", or "If the workers had been prepared...", I would not have found the sentence strange at all.
    Using inverted word order instead of an if-clause is apparently quite OK, although possibly not very common. According to one grammarian, inverting the word order is more formal than using an if-clause, and the if-clause is also rendered less probable. Source: BBC World Service's Learning English site.

    Maybe the usage is more common in BE than in AE, I don't know.

    /Wilma
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Using inverted word order instead of an if-clause is apparently quite OK, although possibly not very common.
    If by "quite OK", you mean it is grammatical, yes, that is true. However, just because something is completely grammatical does not keep it from sounding extremely strange, or archaic, or unnatural. For example, instead of saying "Didn't you see George today?", it would be entirely grammatical to say "Saw you not George today?", but the fact that the sentence was grammatical would not keep it from sounding bizarre in modern English.

    The sentence in question sounds very odd indeed in American English, and I am willing to bet that most native speakers in Britain would also find it unnatural to begin the sentence with "Were the workers prepared to accept..." instead of "If the workers were prepared to accept..."
     
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    JamesM

    Senior Member
    I agree that it sounds distinctly odd to have "Were the workers prepared to accept..." along with "...wouldn't have had..."

    "Were the workers to accept..." works fine for me in: "Were the workers prepared to accept the wage cut, the shop wouldn't have to shut down." To put it in the past I think it needs to be: "Had the workers been prepared to accept the wage cut, the wouldn't have had to shut down."

    I think part of the problem is that "Were the workers prepared to accept..." sounds like the beginning of a question without any subjunctive involved, "Were the workers prepared to accept the deal?"

    I don't see how any of this operates as a past subjunctive. I'm afraid I'm not buying the explanation.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi, I have such a question:

    Is the sentence “ Were the workers prepared to accept the wage cut, the shop wouldn’t have had to shut downcorrect?
    It seems to me that the action in the second clause refers to the past, then the first clause should be “ Had the workers been prepared to accept the wage cut”…

    What puzzles me is the first clause that should be in the perfect. Am I right?
    I agree with you, Art (except that I'd say "past perfect" rather than "perfect").

    I'd be happy with "were the workers prepared to accept the wage cut, the shop wouldn't have to shut down" as a [more formal] variant of "if the workers were prepared to accept the wage cut, the shop wouldn't have to shut down".

    I'd also be happy with "had the workers been prepared to accept the wage cut, the shop wouldn't have had to shut down" as a [more formal] variant of "if the workers had been prepared to accept the wage cut, the shop wouldn't have had to shut down".

    But I think the topic sentence mixes the two: for me, it has the wrong sequence of tenses.
     
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