If the Iron Man popped up from the teleport, people <will><would> be surprised

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mstrike01

Member
Korean
I learned from BBC website that simple past tense can be used to express hypothetical situations
So I made two sentences

1) If the Iron Man popped up from the teleport, people will be surprised
2) If the Iron Man popped up from the teleport, people would be surprised

First one seems fine for me intuitively
but I learned in other sources that you should use 'would' in hypothetical sentences
so I made the second sentence

which one is correct?
are either of them fine?

PLEASE share your intuitions and knowledge for me ^^!
 
  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Conditional sentences about hypothetical or unreal situations are fairly rigid in their structure. The if-clause is backshifted from what you would ordinarily use (the past tense is used for things in the present or future, or which are timeless) and the past perfect is used for things in the past), and you almost always need "would" in the main clause. In general, if the effect is in the present or future, or is timeless, then you use "would" + infinitive, as in your sentence (2). If the effect is in the past then you use "would" + perfect infinitive. Describing the same situation in the past, it would be:
    3) If the Iron Man had popped up from the teleport, people would have been surprised.​

    Often you have a choice of whether to use a real conditional (implying the situation may actually occur) or a hypothetical one (suggesting that it won't). The real version of your sentence (in the present/future) is:
    4) If the Iron Man pops up from the teleport, people will be surprised.​
    This might well be why you first thought of sentence (1).

    It is worth noting that real conditionals allow a wide choice of wording, and you can make many changes to sentence (4), which you could not make to sentence (2).
     
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