If Israel WERE TO attack... / If Israel attackED...

cheshire

Senior Member
Catholic (Cat-holic, not Catholic)
(1) If Israel were to attack Iran, how would the Japanese government react?
(2) If Israel attacked Iran, how would the Japanese government react?
Are there any differences? Which do you think has the higher possibility the speaker feels of Israel attacking Iran?
EDIT: I intended both (1) and (2) as subjunctives. I'm sorry for failing to make it clear, panjandrum.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't hear any difference in meaning, only a difference in the style of English.
    The first was written by someone who is comfortable with the subjunctive. The second is the normal alternative used by non-subjunctive people.
     

    xern

    Senior Member
    Chinese Taiwan
    (1) If Israel were to attack Iran, how would the Japanese government react?
    (2) If Israel attacked Iran, how would the Japanese government react?
    I am surprised and confused that the two sentences make no difference to native English speakers. :confused:

    According to the grammar I've learned, sentence (1) means the unreal future, in other words, something won't happen in the future, and sentence (2) means the unreal present, i.e. the stated situation doesn't happen and is not true.

    This is my humble opinion and I'm really curious why they make no difference to native English speaker. Could it be that what I have learned is outdated?!
     

    vachecow

    Senior Member
    USA English
    This is my humble opinion and I'm really curious why they make no difference to native English speaker. Could it be that what I have learned is outdated?!
    I'm afraid it may be so. If you break it down word by word and look at the tenses and what they imply, you are probably correct. However, in modern English they both are asking what someone thinks the Japanese would do if Iran attacks Israel either as we are speaking or in the future.
     

    susantash

    Senior Member
    Español de Uruguay
    I am surprised and confused that the two sentences make no difference to native English speakers. :confused:

    According to the grammar I've learned, sentence (1) means the unreal future, in other words, something won't happen in the future, and sentence (2) means the unreal present, i.e. the stated situation doesn't happen and is not true.

    This is my humble opinion and I'm really curious why they make no difference to native English speaker. Could it be that what I have learned is outdated?!
    I completeley agree with you; Xern.
    I see sentence n° 1 as something that is not very likely to happen. It means something like "If Israel ever thought of attacking Iran ..."
    The second expresses a greater likelyhood.
     

    okey-dokey

    Senior Member
    English / UK, London
    I am surprised and confused that the two sentences make no difference to native English speakers. :confused:

    According to the grammar I've learned, sentence (1) means the unreal future, in other words, something won't happen in the future, and sentence (2) means the unreal present, i.e. the stated situation doesn't happen and is not true.

    This is my humble opinion and I'm really curious why they make no difference to native English speaker. Could it be that what I have learned is outdated?!
    How can the future be unreal or real? The notion of reality can only apply to the past or present.

    Getting back to the sentences:

    (1) If Israel were to attack Iran, how would the Japanese government react?
    (2) If Israel
    attacked Iran, how would the Japanese government react?

    both concern the future. They are about the supposition of Israel attacking in the future. Another way to express this is:

    (3) If Israel attacks Iran, how will the Japanese government react?

    This one would be about contrary-to-reality present:

    (4) If Israel were attacking Iran, how would the Japanese government be reacting?
     

    xern

    Senior Member
    Chinese Taiwan
    in modern English they both are asking what someone thinks the Japanese would do if Iran attacks Israel either as we are speaking or in the future.
    Hi, vachecow, thank you for the explanation. Now I understand why you native English speakers would say that they are the same. :)
     

    Zelenyj

    New Member
    English
    (1) If Israel were to attack Iran, how would the Japanese government react?
    (2) If Israel attacked Iran, how would the Japanese government react?

    1. WERE TO doesn't make any sense in a statement, thats like saying, "I were to go to Iran", must be said, "If I was to go to Iran.


     

    xern

    Senior Member
    Chinese Taiwan
    How can the future be unreal or real?
    Pardon me for my poor English. What I was trying to say is that something is unlikely to/won't happen in the future. :)

    If Israel were to attack Iran,...----In English grammar, this is called "unreal future'.

    Situation 1:
    The truth (let's not care where the truth comes from) is Israel won't attack Iran in the future.

    A and B are discussing the events of the world. Let's suppose A is an American and B is a Japanese.

    Then, A might ask B, 'If Israel were to attack Iran, how would the Japanese government react?

    Situation 2:
    Israel doesn't attack Iran at present.
    Still, A and B love to discuss the world events.
    While they are talking, there is no war between Israel and Iran.
    Then, A ask B, 'If Israel attacked Iran, how would the Japanese government react?'

    This is how I see the two sentences. Are they different? I don't know.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    What people are saying from their different perspectives could be explained by the difference between current native English usage (formal and informal) and native English usage some time ago - and the way in which that usage has been described and codified for the purpose of teaching non-native students of English.
     

    khg1945

    Member
    Korean
    Hi, probably i'm digging back up this olden rest-in-peace thread, which everyone moved on from, but i have an interesting quote to present that may object to "the same meaning" explanation.

    A dialogue from a tv show, Boston legal goes like this:

    Denny: i prefer to be alone. Please leave.

    Alan: Why?

    Denny: No reason.

    Alan: If you were to guess at a reason?

    Denny: If I were to guess, I'd say maybe I don't want to socialize with a pinko liberal Democrat commie.

    ALan: Ahh.

    If I were to replace 'were to guess' with a simple 'guessed', it would make it sound 'unfitting' there, wouldn't it?

    Thanks for any response in advance.

    p.s. no offense intended for Democrats.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top