My brothers swim as if they were / are fish

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eli7

Senior Member
Persian (Farsi)
"My brothers swim as if they were fish."

I saw this sentence in a book and I don't understand why there is a past tense "were" there. Shouldn't it be "are"?
 
  • LV4-26

    Senior Member
    The as if-clause expresses a condition contrary to reality (your brothers are not fishes).Therefore, you have to use the subjunctive.

    As a sidenote, I wonder why the word fish is in the singular.
     

    eli7

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    The as if-clause expresses a condition contrary to reality (your brothers are not fishes).Therefore, you have to use the subjunctive.

    As a sidenote, I wonder why the word fish is in the singular.
    I see. So, it is a second type of conditional sentences because it shows a fiction, not reality.
    In the second type, in the first part of the sentence there should be a past tense of verb, and in the second part a past modal+simpel verb. like this:
    "If I studied hard, I would pass the exam". or "If you studied, you were the winner".

    But in the sentence "My brothers swim as if they were fish." , the first part shows the present tense and the second part the past tense. It is opposed to the condishional sentences of type 2.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Don't forget it's an as if-clause, not just an if-clause.

    I guess I shouldn't have used the word condition.
    In your last examples (post #3) , which are of the [if X, Y]-type, X is the condition for Y to take place.

    Not so in your original sentence.
     

    eli7

    Senior Member
    Persian (Farsi)
    I got it. Thanks a lot. So, can I generalize that in all "as if" sentences, the tense of the verb which comes after "as if" must be past?
    Could you please provide an example which the tense is present after "as if"?
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    You can use the present whenever what follows as if is not contrary to fact but just a probability.
    It looks as if it's going to rain.
    = I'm not sure it's going to rain but it looks like it.

    Of course, you're likely to hear the present pretty often, even when you should not.
    She feels as if she's floating on the air
    should normally be
    She feels as if she were floating on the air
    ...but the former is fairly common, if informal.

    You can also hear the past indicative in the place of the past subjunctive
    She feels as if she was floating on the air.

    Of course, you don't always have a verb after as if ==>
    As if by magic.
     
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