Subjunctive mood/Future-in-the-past

hermanmon

Member
Chinese - China
Hello, guys.

Here is the sentence I read this morning:

"She wouldn't do that, and I wouldn't tell you anything she tells me about Elliot - if she were to tell me anything."
I know that "wouldn't tell" is in the subjunctive. But why is the word "tells" used here instead of "told"? Or "would have told"?

If the it is not in the subjunctive, the sentence should be:
"She won't do that, and I won't tell you anything she tells me about Elliot - if she is to tell me anything."

But if it is in the subjunctive, all the verbs in the sentence should be in the past tense, which means the sentence should be as follow:
"She wouldn't do that, and I wouldn't tell you anything she told me about Elliot - if she were to tell me anything."

So, am I right about this?
 
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I think you are right, and the writer is not using the correct verb tense here.

    Imperfect grammar is common in English, even among native speakers.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    The tenses look okay to me, though I haven't looked at the wider context. If "she" is in the habit of giving Eliot's secrets away to the speaker, it isn't hypothetical - I presume it doesn't mean "anything she were to tell me about Eliot".

    I wouldn't tell you anything she tells me about Eliot
    - She (regularly) tells me things about Eliot, but I wouldn't tell you any of those things. Then she corrects (contradicts) herself: "If she were to tell me anything".

    By the way, what is the source of the sentence?
     
    Last edited:

    hermanmon

    Member
    Chinese - China
    I read the sentence in the book Fifty Shades of Grey.

    "She" doesn't tell me things about Elliot regularly, because Elliot is just a new guy "she" just met. But I think the author intentionally used that word followed by the contradiction, because "she" is a really close friend. "She" and "I" live together and almost share all the secrets.

    Your replies are really helpful. I just confirmed the grammar I learned.
    Thank you, guys!
     
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