Past +as if + past VS Past +as if + past perfect for unreal situation

Discussion in 'English Only' started by dz420, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. dz420 Senior Member

    1) When the main clause is in the past tense, we do not use a past perfect after as if / as though to show that a comparison is unreal. Instead we use a simple past in both clauses.
    He looked as if / as though he knew everything, but he didn’t. (NOT She looked as if / as though she had known
    everything.) [ web link As if and as though]
    2) we do not use a past perfect for a past unreal comparison.
    She looked as if she was rich, but she wasn’t. (NOT --- as if she had been rich. [ web link As if and as though]

    I think these two websites are same in their opinion. But after reading CLIFFS TOEFL I am in confusion. It has given a couple of examples as follows :
    1)Jeff looked as if he had seen a ghost. (He didn't see a ghost)

    2)He looked as if he had run ten miles. (He didn't run ten miles)

    As we see here, past perfect has been used to show past unreal situation.
    Aren't the rules contradictory? Could someone tell me which one is right? The website? or Cliffs Toefl?
  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    In your earlier examples, the looking and the state are at the same time. In the past, she wasn't rich, but she looked that way. He didn't know everything, but he looked that way. She looked like a rich person; he looked knowledgeable. But the other examples are about two times in the past: he looked as if he had seen a ghost earlier. (First he saw a ghost, then he looked scared.) He looked as if he was at the end of a long race.
  3. DonnyB

    DonnyB Senior Member

    Coventry, UK
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Yes, the examples are slightly different in that the second pair, using the pluperfect, are describing events which might have already taken place (seeing the ghost and running ten miles).

    You can say (2a) "She looked as if she had been was rich, but she wasn’t", but it would refer to an earlier time in the past, and suggest that she was no longer rich now.

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