If you ever need help, I'd be glad to oblige.

HSS

Senior Member
Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
A quick query:

I was reading example sentences in the entry 'oblige' in this dictionary just a moment ago, and a bit puzzled over the mood incongruity between 'need' in the if-clause and 'would' in the main clause. I suspect this is an okay sentence because it is used in an authoritative dictionary, but wouldn't [2] (my sentence) be okay too and express the same meaning?

[1] If you ever need help with the babysitting, I'd be glad to oblige. (English Cobuild Dictionary)

[2] If you ever needed help with the babysitting, I'd be glad to oblige. (my sentence)

Hiro
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, Hiro. I tried without success to find any similar example in the "mixed conditionals" sections of various grammar websites. I think they do have the same meaning. Your version matches the suggestions offered in these websites: If + past subjunctive + would... The original statement sure doesn't sound wrong to me, but I think some people would regard it as a mistake. It seems to be an open-ended statement about a possible future: If you (ever) need help with the babysitting (you may very well need it some day), I would be glad to oblige. Your version better expresses this uncertain future. The original might have come from the speaker's uncertainty about expressing conditional statements. I think I occasionally use the same types of verbs in similar remarks: If + present tense + would...

    Perhaps some other member will find a good source that documents and accepts or rejects phrases that use the "present tense + would" construction. I'll keep looking and return with anything I find.

    PS After looking at some other examples of mixed conditionals, an explanation occurred to me: This is a variation of the first conditional that ordinarily uses If + present tense + will. I think that speakers sometimes convert the "will" to a "would" to be courteous or reserved. That is, "would" sounds less as if the speaker is making an assumption about what the listener might accept. I still haven't found any sources that document this use. At the end of the day, it might be nothing more than an error. If it is, it's one that I'm pretty sure I've made before.
     
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    Merrit

    Senior Member
    English
    ... but wouldn't [2] (my sentence) be okay too and express the same meaning?

    [1] If you ever need help with the babysitting, I'd be glad to oblige. (English Cobuild Dictionary)

    [2] If you ever needed help with the babysitting, I'd be glad to oblige. (my sentence)

    For me, [2] changes the meaning. "If you ever need help ..." expresses something almost certain or, at least, quite probable. "If you ever needed help ..." expresses a hypothetical and rather less probable situation.


    Regarding the mood incongruity, I think Owlman is right about the "would for courtesy" angle.

    It's almost as if the statement has a third element, but the third one is not stated, due to being reserved or courteous -- something like "If you ever need help (and if you asked me), I would be glad to oblige." where the 'would' matches the unstated subjunctive 'asked', not the indicative 'need'.

    m
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    ... I think that speakers sometimes convert the "will" to a "would" to be courteous or reserved. That is, "would" sounds less as if the speaker is making an assumption about what the listener might accept. ...
    Hello, owlman.
    Yes, that I too feel is plausible here. And, if you change 'need' to 'needed,' that'll add up to the whole reservedness even more. Or so I think. Do you think 'If you ever needed help with babysitting, I will be glad to oblige' might also work in some circumstances?

    For me, [2] changes the meaning. "If you ever need help ..." expresses something almost certain or, at least, quite probable. "If you ever needed help ..." expresses a hypothetical and rather less probable situation.
    Hi, Merrit. With the present indicative, in other words, it may sound too assertive or too bold, may it not?
    Regarding the mood incongruity, I think Owlman is right about the "would for courtesy" angle.

    It's almost as if the statement has a third element, but the third one is not stated, due to being reserved or courteous -- something like "If you ever need help (and if you asked me), I would be glad to oblige." where the 'would' matches the unstated subjunctive 'asked', not the indicative 'need'.
    Interesting point, Merrit. I'll note that.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, owlman.
    Yes, that I too feel is plausible here. And, if you change 'need' to 'needed,' that'll add up to the whole reservedness even more. Or so I think. Do you think 'If you ever needed help with babysitting, I will be glad to oblige' might also work in some circumstances?


    Hi, Merrit. With the present indicative, in other words, it may sound too assertive or too bold, may it not?

    Interesting point, Merrit. I'll note that.
    This last version of possible odd conditionals sounds less likely to me, Hiro. However, with so many English-speakers in the world, somebody somewhere probably has used or does use it. If there is any logic behind it, I think it would be: If you ever needed any help (which is unlikely), I will definitely be there to help you. I suspect most speakers who were careful enough to use the past subjunctive in the first clause would probably preserve "would" in the second clause.

    By the way, I liked Merrit's analysis of the "If + present + would" construction in his last post. Adding an unspoken (and if you ever asked me) sounds quite reasonable.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    Okay, owlman. (Good morning, by the way. Good evening here. It's quite late here, I'll hit the sack soon)
    So, you'd use it less likely if ever. And, yes indeed, I like Merrit's way of looking at it too. There must be the unspoken voice there.

    Hiro
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    HSS,
    If it helps, both I and (from what she says) Beryl find the 2 constructions in the original post absolutely normal and without any real difference. NB we are both BE speakers.
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    This last version of possible odd conditionals sounds less likely to me, Hiro.
    Ooops, I've almost forgotten to ask! Your perception of this particular sentence being (a lot?) less likely to be used ... would you have a similar one with other 'if + past subjunctive, will's?
     

    HSS

    Senior Member
    Standard Japanese, Sendaian Japanese
    HSS,
    If it helps, both I and (from what she says) Beryl find the 2 constructions in the original post absolutely normal and without any real difference. NB we are both BE speakers.
    Thanks, Paul. I'll keep it in mind.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Ooops, I've almost forgotten to ask! Your perception of this particular sentence being (a lot?) less likely to be used ... would you have a similar one with other 'if + past subjunctive, will's?
    Yes, Hiro. Any version of that construction sounds less likely to me. It's hard to come up with an accurate memory of some slight variation of a conditional statement, but I don't recall that version being used in any of my recent conversation or reading. As PaulQ and Beryl noted, many native speakers wouldn't find anything particularly odd about one of these variations, but I still can't find them mentioned in any grammar source I've checked. These variations could well be more common than many explanations of conditional statements suggest they are.
     

    mike-d

    New Member
    Hey everyone!
    There are millions of samples that prove Owlman5 and advocators of his idea are RIGHT. Here are some:

    The singer Gavin DeGraw, Not Over You lyrics:
    'If you ask me how I'm doin I would say I'm doin just fine
    I would lie and say that you're not on my mind'

    The movie 'I Love You, Man'
    (00:08:37) Tevin the realtor says to his co-worker Peter, 'It's a big piece of house. If you want a copilot
    (=friend to help) on this, I'd be happy to team up(=form a team) with you.'

    www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/weight/
    If you shake an object like a stone in your hand, you would notice that it takes a
    push to get it moving, and another push to stop it again.

    I hope these suffice! ;)
     
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