If+past simple+would (hypothesis)

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Felow

New Member
Moroccan Arabic
Hello,

I see sentences made with if+past simple+would a lot and and in some situations they confuse me. For example X was talking kindly about Z so X's friend A told him "if he heard you saying that he'd be happy." Does it mean that if Z was there and he had heard X talking about him like that he would've been happy? Or if he hypothetically heard him saying that in the future he'd be happy?. And just recently I was watching a video and there was a guy scolding a woman because she wasn't respecting the traffic code so she told him "if you bought a car you wouldn't be crying like that." If the sentence was "if you had bought a car you wouldn't be crying like that." I would understand it easily because there it's obvious it's about if an action was done in the past. But when people use simple past in sentences like those it becomes hard to understand because normally if+sp+would is to talk hypothetically about the future for example "if you worked out you'd become stronger.". Unfortunately I never see people using past perfect in those kinda sentences and even though I understand the meaning and that it's hypothetical I still don't understand if it's about a hypothesis in the future or the past. Is there some way to know?. And I'm sorry for the long post I just wanted to make sure that you understand my problem.

Thank you.
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Welcome to the forum.

    You might want to read up on conditional sentences in English. The form "if [past tense] [present conditional]", for example "if he heard you saying that he'd be happy" is used for hypothetical situations, and is often referred to as a type 2 conditional or a second conditional. This sentence (or at least the first part of it) is independent of time.

    The past perfect "If you had bought a car" is for an unreal situation in the past. That is, a decision was made in the past, and you are now considering what the effect would be/would have been if a different decision had been made (or something happened in the past, and you are now considering what the effect would be/would have been had something different happened). It is usually paired with the perfect conditional ("you wouldn't have been crying like that") to refer to what would have happened in the past, and this is a type 3 or third conditional, but if you want to refer to the effect in the present, you use the present conditional ("you would not be crying like that").
    Unfortunately I never see people using past perfect in those kinda sentences and even though I understand the meaning and that it's hypothetical I still don't understand if it's about a hypothesis in the future or the past. Is there some way to know?
    The past perfect really requires something to have happened in the past to affect the situation you are thinking about. It is hard to see what could have happened to mean that the person does not work out, so the past perfect is not appropriate. However, using the simple past is fine, as this does not rely on any actual occurence.
     
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