If I will be late, I will call you.

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casino

Senior Member
Japan
I asked a lot of English speakers about the acceptability of
(1) If I will be late, I will call you.
American English speakers accept (1), whereas British English speakers do not. American English speakers told me that the meaning of (1) is this:
(2) If I discover that I will be late, I will call you.

How do British English speakers say to express the meaning of (2)?

Casino
 
  • xebonyx

    Senior Member
    TR/AR/EN
    I asked a lot of English speakers about the acceptability of
    (1) If I will be late, I will call you.
    American English speakers accept (1), whereas British English speakers do not. American English speakers told me that the meaning of (1) is this:
    (2) If I discover that I will be late, I will call you.

    How What do British English speakers say to express the meaning of (2)?

    Casino
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    I asked a lot of English speakers about the acceptability of
    (1) If I will be late, I will call you.[...]
    American English speakers told me that the meaning of (1) is this:
    (2) If I discover that I will be late, I will call you. [...]
    This American would say If I'm going to be late, I'll call you.
     

    The Slippery Slide

    Senior Member
    British English
    It's not about being British or American, Casino.

    All of us say "If I'm going to be late . . . "

    We might say "If I discover that I will be late . . . " instead of going to, but it's not so common. And dropping the discover would be strange. I'm British, but my colleagues here are American, and they wouldn't say that.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I would understand "if I will be late", assuming the appropriate context, but "if I'm going to be late" is clearer and "if I find/discover I'm going to be late" is even clearer.

    I don't understand "if you will help this guy, I will understand why." What is the intended meaning?
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    This Canadian would never use #1. or #2. To me, the use of "will" is black and white. How can you use "will" when you've indicated that you're not sure by the use of "if"? The same logic applies to both sentences, for me. I would say:

    "If I'm going to be late, I'll call you"
    "If I'm running late, I'll call you"
    "If I think I'm going to be late, I'll call you"
     

    FYV

    Member
    Russia, Russian
    How can you use "will" when you've indicated that you're not sure by the use of "if"? The same logic applies to both sentences
    It's not a logic it's a grammar rule.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    This American would say, If I'm late, I'll call you. :)
    Interesting present simple. That means that, even if the time of the appointment hasn't passed yet, you realize you'll never be there on time? So, even though you're not actually late yet, you're already late? :)
    FYV said:
    It's not a logic it's a grammar rule.
    Or could it be both? ;) Hopefully, some grammar rules are based on logic.
     

    FYV

    Member
    Russia, Russian
    Or could it be both? ;) Hopefully, some grammar rules are based on logic.
    So if in english "if I'm late" is in a present tense because it's logical (How can you use "will" when you've indicated that you're not sure by the use of "if"? ) then if in other langugaes this sentense must be in a future tense then this other languages' rule is illogical?
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    So if in english "if I'm late" is in a present tense because it's logical (How can you use "will" when you've indicated that you're not sure by the use of "if"? ) then if in other langugaes this sentense must be in a future tense then this other languages' rule is illogical?
    Touché. Let me clarify.
    I don't know which language you're referring to but I'd say it's simply based on a different logic, probably taking different aspects into account.

    True, there's certainly a logical reason behind the use of "If I will be late" or its equivalent in another language. But it just conflicts with the intrinsic logic of the English "will". I guess you could call that "grammar", after all. The boundaries may be blurry sometimes.
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    This American would say, If I'm late, I'll call you. :)
    This is the correct version, according to the grammar rules that are taught to foreigners.

    If + simple present + (then) future.

    "If I will be late then I will call you" (double future) is wrong, according to that rule, although in Italian we would translate this sentence using a double future.
     

    bloomiegirl

    Senior Member
    US English
    If + simple present + (then) future.:tick:
    Here's a link about the simple present - see use 3 (near future).

    I agree with all the postings by Americans/Canadians, and I can understand the Brit's posting too. But the double negative does sound "different" to my American ears.

    Just a note to LV4-26 and FYV - Proper speech is based on usage even more than on rules or logic. ;)
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Here's a link about the simple present - see use 3 (near future).
    (added emphasis)
    Thanks for the link, bloomiegirl. Yes, that works... as long as long as you consider being late as a "scheduled event".

    Just a note to LV4-26 and FYV - Proper speech is based on usage even more than on rules or logic. ;)
    I totally agree.

    I still think
    (1) If I will be late, I'll call you
    (2) If I'm going to be late, I'll call you
    (3) If I'm late, I'll call you
    are 3 different "shortcuts" for
    (4) If I realize I'm going to be late, I'll call you.

    The difference being that (2) and (3) are idiomatic while (1) is not.
    The other difference being that (3) is based on the idea that if I'm going to be late, it means I'm already late.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hi LV4.

    If (3) If I'm late, I'll call you is a short cut for (4) If I realize I'm going to be late, I'll call you, as you say, how can (3) be based on the idea that if I'm going to be late implies I'm already late? If you're already late you can't realize that you are going to be late, surely? That bit left me a little puzzled, as you can see.

    Your (1) If I will be late, I'll call you you describe as unidiomatic. Does that mean you share my view that it is wrong? And how about if you will be late, call me? Can that mean If you realize that you are going to be late, call me? Is that any more acceptable than (1) If I will be late, I'll call you.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I asked a lot of English speakers about the acceptability of
    (1) If I will be late, I will call you.
    American English speakers accept (1), whereas British English speakers do not.
    There does appear to be an AmE/BrE difference here.

    Google hits for "If I will be late" region US: 16,500. From a quick scan of the first three or four pages, few of the examples are indirect questions (where "if I will" is, of course, non-controversial).

    Google hits for "If I will be late" region UK: 2.

    I know we have to take google statistics with a very large pinch of salt. Even so, they do seem to bear out what casino is saying.

    I agree, incidentally, with all those - including casino - who have said that "if I will" must be a truncated form of "if I find/discover/realize I will".
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Hi LV4.

    If (3) If I'm late, I'll call you is a short cut for (4) If I realize I'm going to be late, I'll call you, as you say, how can (3) be based on the idea that if I'm going to be late implies I'm already late? If you're already late you can't realize that you are going to be late, surely? That bit left me a little puzzled, as you can see.
    Say I have to be meet my friend somewhere at 4 pm and I know it takes me half an hour to get there. Now, if I leave home at 3:45, I am late, according to my own reckoned schedule and I'll probably phone my friend to say I won't be able to make it on time.
    That's what I tried to say and that's the only kind of context I can imagine for (3).

    Your (1) If I will be late, I'll call you you describe as unidiomatic. Does that mean you share my view that it is wrong? And how about if you will be late, call me? Can that mean If you realize that you are going to be late, call me? Is that any more acceptable than (1) If I will be late, I'll call you.
    Yes, I share your view that (1) is wrong.
    But I also realize that my own preferred option (and also Dimcl's and bloomiegirl's) - (2) If I'm going to be late - is not much more logical than (1) if I really think of it. After all, even though it's a different kind of future, semantically, it's also a future.

    Same with your proposed example. I don't think If you will be late, call me is acceptable.
    Conversely, I'd have no probem with If you're going to be late, call me.
    But I'm not sure why, apart from the fact that the latter doesn't sound wrong.
    Both derive from the same idea, i.e. the knowledge that, in the future, you're going to be late.

    I don't know about Italian or Russian but note that, in French, neither (1) nor (2) would be acceptable. Only (3) - again, with the appropriate context - and (4), would work.
     

    Orange Blossom

    Senior Member
    U.S.A. English
    Say I have to be meet my friend somewhere at 4 pm and I know it takes me half an hour to get there. Now, if I leave home at 3:45, I am late, according to my own reckoned schedule and I'll probably phone my friend to say I won't be able to make it on time.
    That's what I tried to say and that's the only kind of context I can imagine for (3).
    In this scenario, however, there wouldn't be any reason to say to your friend "If I'm late, I'll call you." You would simply call her or him to inform him or her of your lateness. In that phone call you might say, "I'm running a little late."
    ---------
    Now here is a situation in which I have used, "If I'm [going to be] late, I'll call you."

    On Friday I am scheduling the following Friday's tutoring session with my student. I note on my calendar that my father has a doctor's appointment in the morning. I think I will be able to get to the tutoring session at the proposed time, but I'm not sure because the doctor's appointment may take over-long. I then say to my student, "If I'm [going to be] late, I'll call you." in reference to the following Friday.

    Orange Blossom
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    It's also not unusual in AE to hear "If I'm running late I'll call you", meaning
    "if I notice that I won't make it on time because my previous tasks/errands are taking longer than expected, I'll give you a call to let you know I'll be arriving late."
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    If pluperfect is the past of the past, then this "if I will be late" is the future of the future. Here is a possible sequence of events:

    1. A person says, "If I will be late, I'll call you". At this time, timing is still an unknown.
    2. The person, not yet late, anticipates becoming late. At this time, the person "will be late", so the person plans to make the call. The person can say, "I will make the call because I will be late."
    3. The person makes the call, anticipating being late.
    4. The person is in transit later than planned. At this time, the person can say "I made the call because I would be late."
    5. The person arrives barely on time due to an unanticipated lack of traffic problems. Now the person can say "Since I would be late, I called you. Soon I actually was late, but now I am back on schedule."

    If the person is already late in step 2, then "I will make the call because I am late" applies, and "If I am late, I'll call you" would be appropriate in step 1. But that is not quite the same situation.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    It's also not unusual in AE to hear "If I'm running late I'll call you", meaning
    "if I notice that I won't make it on time because my previous tasks/errands are taking longer than expected, I'll give you a call to let you know I'll be arriving late."
    I love this thread. :)
    Thanks to you, Dimcl and Orange Blossom, I've learnt "running late".
    Now, my question is: Could it be AE only? I mean, it seems to ideally fit the situation, yet not one BE speaker (Meadow Blue, Slippery Side, Loob) mentionned it.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If pluperfect is the past of the past, then this "if I will be late" is the future of the future. Here is a possible sequence of events:

    1. A person says, "If I will be late, I'll call you". At this time, timing is still an unknown. This would be very strange in BE. We'd say if I'm late, I'll call you.
    2. The person, not yet late, anticipates becoming late. At this time, the person "will be late", so the person plans to make the call. The person can say, "I will make the call because I will be late." This doesn't seem to be a case of 'If I will be late', at all.
    3. The person makes the call, anticipating being late. What does he say?
    4. The person is in transit later than planned. At this time, the person can say "I made the call because I would be late." Not a case of if I will be late, either
    5. The person arrives barely on time due to an unanticipated lack of traffic problems. Now the person can say "Since I would be late, I called you. Soon I actually was late, but now I am back on schedule." In BE, I wouldn't understand this at all. If I've understood you correctly, we'd say something like: I called you because I thought I was going to be late. I was for a time behind schedule but now I've caught up.

    If the person is already late in step 2, then "I will make the call because I am late" applies, and "If I am late, I'll call you" would be appropriate in step 1. But that is not quite the same situation.
    Hi Forero, I've responded to your post in a different colour. It didn't seem worth typing out all those examples again

    LV4-26 said:
    I don't think If you will be late, call me is acceptable.
    Conversely, I'd have no probem with If you're going to be late, call me.
    But I'm not sure why, apart from the fact that the latter doesn't sound wrong.
    Both derive from the same idea, i.e. the knowledge that, in the future, you're going to be late.
    Thank you for your response LV4. I think it's worth saying that we need to distinguish between late to mean running late, and late to mean arriving late. People say I'm late now (running late), so I'll be late (getting there -arriving late). I don't think we have sufficiently distinguished between these two meanings of to be late, and that matters very often when we are considering appropriate tenses.

    P.S. Our posts crossed, LV4, which is why I didn't take yours into account here.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thanks to you, Dimcl and Orange Blossom, I've learnt "running late". Now, my question is: Could it be AE only?
    No, "run late" is BrE as well, LV4-26 :)

    I'd use the same options as Dimcl:
    "If I'm going to be late, I'll call you"
    "If I'm running late, I'll call you"
    "If I think I'm going to be late, I'll call you"
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Not being a good English speaker myself, I have thought of If I would be late, I will call you. Is it correct?, does it mean the same?
    Hi Juandiego,

    The usual rules for sequence of tenses are:

    Pres - future: If I am late, I will call you.
    Imperfect - conditional: If I was late, I would call you.
    Imperfect of auxiliary - conditional of auxiliary: If I had been late, I would have called you.

    The Present - Present is not unusual: If I am late, I call you.

    As a general rule we keep conditional tenses out of if-clauses.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Notwithstanding some opinions that grammar has nothing to do with logic, I disagree.

    The word "if" implies an unknown quantity. It says that I don't know whether or not I will be late. The original sentence ("If I will be late, I will call you") is the same as saying:

    "Although I'm unsure of whether I'll be late, I will call you"

    This makes no sense to me. At this point in time, I'm uncertain that I'll be late ("if"). It is the process of getting to the appointed place at the appointed time that could cause me to be late. That process is in the future. I will not know whether that process will make me late or not, therefore, if it does make me late, I will call you OR if it appears that it will make me late, I will call you OR if I am getting behind in my schedule, I will call you.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Notwithstanding some opinions that grammar has nothing to do with logic, I disagree.

    The word "if" implies an unknown quantity. It says that I don't know whether or not I will be late. The original sentence ("If I will be late, I will call you") is the same as saying:

    "Although I'm unsure of whether I'll be late, I will call you"

    This makes no sense to me. At this point in time, I'm uncertain that I'll be late ("if"). It is the process of getting to the appointed place at the appointed time that could cause me to be late. That process is in the future. I will not know whether that process will make me late or not, therefore, if it does make me late, I will call you OR if it appears that it will make me late, I will call you OR if I am getting behind in my schedule, I will call you.
    That's all very well, Dimcl, but one of the interesting points in this discussion is that we have no difficulty accepting If I'm going to be late, I'll call you, but object to If I will be late, I'll call you.

    Yet both sentences fall foul of your logical objection, if I have understood it correctly. How can we accept the one and not the other?
     

    juandiego

    Senior Member
    Spanish from Spain
    Thanks Thomas.
    So, in English you can not use conditional tenses to refer to a future action, do you?

    And a second question about timing and meaning in your examples:
    Pres - future: If I am late, I will call you. I still don't know whether I'll be punctual but if not I will call you once I am sure.
    Imperfect - conditional: If I was late, I would call you. The same than the previous explanation
    Imperfect of auxiliary - conditional of auxiliary: If I had been late, I would have called you. Something that has not happened in the past but we talk about an hypothesis in case it would have been otherwise
    Are those blue explanations right?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thanks Thomas.
    So, in English you can not use conditional tenses to refer to a future action, do you? I simply said we don't usually allow them in if-clauses; you can't draw this conclusion.

    And a second question about timing and meaning in your examples:
    Pres - future: If I am late, I will call you. I still don't know whether I'll be punctual but if not I will call you once I am sure.
    Imperfect - conditional: If I was late, I would call you. The same than the previous explanation
    Imperfect of auxiliary - conditional of auxiliary: If I had been late, I would have called you. Something that has not happened in the past but we talk about an hypothesis in case it would have been otherwise
    Are those blue explanations right?
    I couldn't be quite sure of the blue explanations, so I couldn't answer.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    But, do we have to understand the same timing in the first and second examples? We'll do it in Spanish (at least, I).
    Pres - future: If I am late, I will call you.
    Imperfect - conditional: If I was late, I would call you.

    Here are the first and second examples. The first has future force; the second suggests habitual action in the past. They are by no means the same.
     

    juandiego

    Senior Member
    Spanish from Spain
    I don't want to bore you being dull, Thomas, but are you meaning that If I was late, I would call you is about something in the past instead of something that we still don't know whether it will happen or not sooner than later?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't want to bore you being dull, Thomas, but are you meaning that If I was late, I would call you is about something in the past instead of something that we still don't know whether it will happen or not sooner than later?
    I said it was about the past, and I meant it was about the past. It means where it happened that I was late, I was in the habit of calling you. Nothing about the future at all. I'm sure any good grammar book will explain these points.

    I do feel we should get back to the question, which is whether or not we can say if I will be late. The usual way of expressing the future condition is if I am late, I will call you - standard pres/future sequence. Now should it happen that I can see that I will be late (if I'm running late), we'd usually say: if I'm running late, I will call you; or if I can see that I'm going to be late, I will call you, or, interestingly, if I'm going to be late, I will call you.

    The question is why can we use one future form (I'm going to be late) but not the other (I will be late). The fact that we can suggests to me that this isn't purely a question of logic.
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Pres - future: If I am late, I will call you.
    Imperfect - conditional: If I was late, I would call you.

    Here are the first and second examples. The first has future force; the second suggests habitual action in the past. They are by no means the same.
    Thomas, I think you are talking about a different kind of a sentence, which is usually not taught to foreigners (and when it is, the emphasis on it is rather low).

    The second sentence can have two (well two I can think of two) implications.
    The first one is what Thomas wrote about. (technically, I am not even sure whether it is called conditional).
    The second one is hypothesizing about the future, something that might happen and what I might do if it happened. (compare: If I were you I wouldn't buy this car.)

    Tom
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I said it was about the past, and I meant it was about the past. It means where it happened that I was late, I was in the habit of calling you. Nothing about the future at all. I'm sure any good grammar book will explain these points.

    I do feel we should get back to the question, which is whether or not we can say if I will be late. The usual way of expressing the future condition is if I am late, I will call you - standard pres/future sequence. Now should it happen that I can see that I will be late (if I'm running late), we'd usually say: if I'm running late, I will call you; or if I can see that I'm going to be late, I will call you, or, interestingly, if I'm going to be late, I will call you.

    The question is why can we use one future form (I'm going to be late) but not the other (I will be late). The fact that we can suggests to me that this isn't purely a question of logic.
    “I will” and “I’m going to” each have multiple meanings, but they can both serve as future tense equivalents, depending on context. (English has no simple future tense form.) Another future tense equivalent is “I am to”, also with multiple meanings.

    In “I’ll call you if I discover that … be late”, any of the three “future” forms works well enough; but without “I discover that”, the form “I’m going to” works fine, whereas “I will” is most confusing:

    “I’ll call you if I’m going to be late.”
    “I’ll call you if I am to be late.”
    “I’ll call you if I will be late.”

    In contrast to “I’m going to”, “I am to” may imply either planning or obligation, and “I will” may imply either willingness or inevitability. “I’m going to” is unique in that it can imply a future “in progress”, more clearly a look to the future taking place in the present, a prediction perhaps less surely to be fulfilled. Thus, it seems to me, “I’m going to” fits best with what we are trying to say.

    By the way, "would", "should", and "could" can be used as conditional forms, but they can also be simply past tenses of "will", "shall", and "can", respectively. Saying "I said I'd call you if I would be late" is merely reporting that I said "I'll call you if I will be late" - if we accept that construction. A better example might be "I said I'd call you if he wouldn't come with me", reporting that I said "I'll call you if he won't come with me." Here "won't" means something like "refuses to", not "inevitably shan't", and "would" is the same thing in past tense.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    That's all very well, Dimcl, but one of the interesting points in this discussion is that we have no difficulty accepting If I'm going to be late, I'll call you, but object to If I will be late, I'll call you.

    Yet both sentences fall foul of your logical objection, if I have understood it correctly. How can we accept the one and not the other?
    "I'm going to" is the process that I referred to previously. "I'm going to" doesn't have the same meaning as "I will". I can't think of any use of "I will be xxx" in the context of this question that works for me.

    "If I'm going to be travelling, I'll take a backpack":tick:
    "If I will be travelling, I'll take a backpack":cross:

    "If I'm going to be tired, I'll drink lots of coffee":tick:
    "If I will be tired, I'll drink lots of coffee":cross:

    I can't reconcile "if" with "will be". It just doesn't work for me whereas "going to" is the course of action that makes me late (or not).
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    First, let me tell you all how interesting this thread is, thanks to all the participants.
    Then, I have been reading cautiously enough, and I haven't seen something that as a French learner of English I have always been told about 'if' sentences in the future, which I believe might help.

    The sentence 'if I am late, I'll call you' ought to be compared to 'when I discover I will be late' as it was implied in previous posts. And at uni, I was told that the English language applies some simplification, as it does with all sentences with 'as soon as', 'when',... as it considers that the process of 'call you' will only happen if or when the first part of the sentence is achieved (be late). Hence the lack of need of a future tense, since it may not even occur at all.
    A bit difficult to explain, but I see some logic in it:
    1) Be late has to be achieved fully (and there is no substantial reason why it should for the moment being, since it is linked to external factors)
    2) in that case only then the future of 'call you' will apply logically.

    I hope it helps. It did help me understand.

    On the other hand, sentences with 'if' and 'will' bear another meaning to me:

    If you will help me, I will really feel grateful.

    The value of will here is no longer linked to the future but to the good will of the character: if you are so kind as to accept to help me...
    This may also explain why the use of will in 'if' sentences could be confusing.

    Of course, all these are but the expression of my humble opinion and the basis of what I have been taught. I'd be grateful to know if any of this is erroneous.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thomas, I think you are talking about a different kind of a sentence, which is usually not taught to foreigners (and when it is, the emphasis on it is rather low).

    The second sentence can have two (well two I can think of two) implications.
    The first one is what Thomas wrote about. (technically, I am not even sure whether it is called conditional).
    The second one is hypothesizing about the future, something that might happen and what I might do if it happened. (compare: If I were you I wouldn't buy this car.)

    Tom
    Hi Tom,

    I'm having trouble seeing the second (future) meaning of If I was late, I would call you. Say I'm explaining to a friend that I may be late but that if I am I will call him; I'd say If I'm late, I'll call you, or should I be late I'll call you. I'd never say If I was late, I would call you.
     

    juandiego

    Senior Member
    Spanish from Spain
    Hi Tom,

    I'm having trouble seeing the second (future) meaning of If I was late, I would call you. Say I'm explaining to a friend that I may be late but that if I am I will call him; I'd say If I'm late, I'll call you, or should I be late I'll call you. I'd never say If I was late, I would call you.
    And if the first clause were in subjunctive, do you understand it in the future?
    If I were late, I would call you.

    (A literal translation of the aforesaid sentence into Spanish would be understood as something that may happen or not but always in the future)

    If I was late, could be understood as subjunctive or it need to be were?
     

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    French
    I don't think I understand 'if I happened to be late, I would call you' in the past. I think I would understand it as a very unlikely process. I am leaving by train, the weather is fine, the railways are well looked after (no comment) and so I make a very unlikely hypothesis:
    'if by any chance I was late / I happened to be late , I would then call you of course', but 'be reassured, this will clearly not happen'.

    Now if I say 'if I am late, I will call you', then I may travel in a country where trains are somehow ... regularly late? Hence the greater likelihood?
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    I tend to be with Moon Palace on this but we may be both wrong (not being native speakers).

    Don't you think a sentence like
    Were I to be late, I will (/would) call you...

    (which, to me, is strictly equivalent to If I happen(ed) to be late and to Thomas' Should I be late)

    ...could be said in exactly the same situation as "If I'm late, I will call you"? (degree of formality aside), keeping in mind that the tense here is not the indicative past but the subjunctive.
    By the way, it might well be the subjunctive as well in happened. (?)

    I'm not entirely sure about the would (instead of will) but I believe it doesn't change the time sequence, but simply complies with some sort of tense agreement rule demanded by this extremely formal register.

    To answer juandiego's last question, I think it has to be "were" here because, as you suggested, it has to be the subjunctive and, in this specific case - i.e. contrary to "happened" - , the two forms are different.

    But that's only theory, of course. The question is: could any of our native speakers here imagine themselves - provided they'd want to be extremely formal - saying "Were I to be late, I would call you" to mean "If I'm late, I'll call you"?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think I'm running into problems about impossible conditions here, LV4. I use the subjunctive mostly for impossible conditions: if I were you, if we were living in the First Century BC. If I were running late suggests to me that I couldn't be running late and certainly wasn't running late. If I were running late I would call you would mean I'm not running late but suppose I were I would call you - hard for this to work because it doesn't seem to be either future, present, or past. Hence the problem.

    Were I running late I would have called you is a clumsy way of saying had I been running late I would have called you.

    I can't put a normal idiomatic correct construction on Were I to be late, I would call you.
     

    juandiego

    Senior Member
    Spanish from Spain
    I would like to point out that the conditional particle "if" somehow displaces the hypothetical action towards sometime in the future, therefore it seems me logical that a past tense could be applied in the first clause, since it could be refering to a past action once the speaker is in that future situation in which the condition of that first clause has been accomplished.
    I mean:
    Once (that?) I realize I were/was late, I would/will call you.
    Once I realize = if

    Does it make sense for you English speakers?
     

    Thomas1

    Senior Member
    polszczyzna warszawska
    Hi Tom,

    I'm having trouble seeing the second (future) meaning of If I was late, I would call you. Say I'm explaining to a friend that I may be late but that if I am I will call him; I'd say If I'm late, I'll call you, or should I be late I'll call you. I'd never say If I was late, I would call you.
    Hi Thomas,

    I think I am getting your point here (hopefully;)).

    Correct me if I am wrong:
    If I was* late, I would call you. even though the sentence is grammatically plausible as a conditional sentence it is useless in practical usage--as there is no point in hypothesising about the future (or present, I forgot to mention in my last post that the second conditional--if + subjunctive, would + infinitive--can also refer to the present) in this specific situation. Thus, although the sentence is grammatically correct it isn't really applicable, as there is probably no context in which one could apply it. Am I right in my unerstanding?

    Tom


    * I should have also mentined last time, though in the example I gave there is were, that taditionally this wouldn't count as hypothetical sentence since instead of was we need to use were--the subjunctive)

    PS: should also has crossed my mind as an alternative version. :)
     
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