Tenses after IF

Poland91pl

Senior Member
Polish
Hello. IS the tense pattern IN CONDITIONAL sentences always true for the first verb used?

As in : if you tell her you will go abroad, she will dump you.
Or - if you tell her you go abroad, she will dump you

And 3rd. If you had told her you went /had gone abroad, she would've dumped you?
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    That’s a very bad example. The simple present implies a habitual action (something done on a regular basis), but presumably that’s not what you mean by “you go abroad”? And whatever you mean by it, it doesn’t have the same meaning as “you will go abroad”.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I am not clear what you are asking, but clearly in your "if" clauses there is some indirect speech.
    If you tell her "I will go abroad", …
    If you tell her "I have gone abroad", ...
    You have not made it clear what tense of direct speech you intended here.
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Ok. A different example.

    My friend is going to stay at my sister's. I say " if there's something you don't like there/won't like there, let me know"?

    Or in the past " if there had been something she didn't like /hadnt liked, she would've told us"?
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I am not clear what you are asking, but clearly in your "if" clauses there is some indirect speech.
    If you tell her "I will go abroad", …
    If you tell her "I have gone abroad", ...
    You have not made it clear what tense of direct speech you intended here.
    You didn't get me right. If you go to your girlfriend and tell her you will go abroad she will dump you " is it OK?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Can you explain what exactly is giving you problems? There are some very specific rules on the tense of the main verb in an if-clause. The tense of a subordinate verb often depends on the tense of the main verb, but I cannot think that being in a conditional sentence makes any difference to this.
    Conditional sentence: If you tell her you will go abroad, she will dump you. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Tell her you will go abroad. :tick:
    Conditional sentence: If you tell her you go abroad, she will dump you. :cross:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Tell her you go abroad. :cross:
    Conditional sentence: If you had told her you went abroad, she would've dumped you. :thumbsdown:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Had you told her you went abroad? :thumbsdown:
    Conditional sentence: If you had told her you had gone abroad, she would've dumped you. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Had you told her you had gone abroad? :tick:
    Conditional sentence: If there's something you don't like there, let me know. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Is there something you don't like there? :tick:
    Conditional sentence: If there's something you won't like there, let me know. :cross:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Is there something you won't like there? :cross:
    Conditional sentence: If there had been something she didn't like, she would've told us. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: There had been something she didn't like. :tick:
    Conditional sentence: If there had been something she hadn't liked, she would've told us. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: There had been something she hadn't liked. :tick:
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Can you explain what exactly is giving you problems? There are some very specific rules on the tense of the main verb in an if-clause. The tense of a subordinate verb often depends on the tense of the main verb, but I cannot think that being in a conditional sentence makes any difference to this.
    Conditional sentence: If you tell her you will go abroad, she will dump you. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Tell her you will go abroad. :tick:
    Conditional sentence: If you tell her you go abroad, she will dump you. :cross:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Tell her you go abroad. :cross:
    Conditional sentence: If you had told her you went abroad, she would've dumped you. :thumbsdown:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Had you told her you went abroad? :thumbsdown:
    Conditional sentence: If you had told her you had gone abroad, she would've dumped you. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Had you told her you had gone abroad? :tick:
    Conditional sentence: If there's something you don't like there, let me know. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Is there something you don't like there? :tick:
    Conditional sentence: If there's something you won't like there, let me know. :cross:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: Is there something you won't like there? :cross:
    Conditional sentence: If there had been something she didn't like, she would've told us. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: There had been something she didn't like. :tick:
    Conditional sentence: If there had been something she hadn't liked, she would've told us. :tick:
    Sentence using same main verb tense: There had been something she hadn't liked. :tick:
    Wow thank you :) " if there had been something she hadnt liked" and " if there had been something she didn't like" - they both mean the same?
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Wow thank you :) " if there had been something she hadnt liked" and " if there had been something she didn't like" - they both mean the same?
    No, the time relationship is different, but both are correct sentences in English. If you have a context where one of these sentences might be used, then we might be able to explain which version should be used in that context.
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    No, the time relationship is different, but both are correct sentences in English. If you have a context where one of these sentences might be used, then we might be able to explain which version should be used in that context.
    And that's the problem because I can't think of any context now as I don't know the difference between the two sentences. Can you?
     

    AndyVain

    New Member
    Polish
    In the Polish language, there are only three tenses. And they teach us in school that you must 'change the tense' - you must use the Present Simple even if you mean that this action will happen in the future because this is a rule. So ok, it's clear that after "if", you must use the Present Simple, not Future. But there is a problem when there is one more verb. Should we change the tense in both verbs or only in the first one? This is what the author means.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Yes, the tenses being asked about are not subject to the rules of the standard conditional constructions in English, since they occur in an additional subordinate clause – not as the main verb in the main clause or if-clause.

    In other words, the two main verbs follow a set pattern, but any other verbs vary according to the syntax:


    If you tell her [that you are taking a new job overseas], she will dump you
    If you tell her
    [that you regularly go abroad on business], she will dump you
    If you tell her
    [that you cheated on her with her sister], she will dump you
    — She dumps him! —
    If you had told her [that you had not slept with her sister], she would not have dumped you
    If you had told her
    [that you did not sleep with her sister], she would not have dumped you
    If you had told her
    [that you would never cheat on her for all the tea in China], she would not have dumped you
     

    Poland91pl

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Yes, the tenses being asked about are not subject to the rules of the standard conditional constructions in English, since they occur in an additional subordinate clause – not as the main verb in the main clause or if-clause.

    In other words, the two main verbs follow a set pattern, but any other verbs vary according to the syntax:


    If you tell her [that you are taking a new job overseas], she will dump you
    If you tell her
    [that you regularly go abroad on business], she will dump you
    If you tell her
    [that you cheated on her with her sister], she will dump you
    — She dumps him! —
    If you had told her [that you had not slept with her sister], she would not have dumped you
    If you had told her
    [that you did not sleep with her sister], she would not have dumped you
    If you had told her
    [that you would never cheat on her for all the tea in China], she would not have dumped you
    And.... How I see it is ( I'll change it a bit)
    "If you had not told her you had slept with her sister" - the act of sleeping with her sister had been some time before he told it to his (let's say) wife.and when he said it to her he probably wasn't cheating on her any more

    And here " if you had not told her you slept with her sister" at the time he admmited to cheating on her he was still sleeping with her sister/ he still slept with her sister (past simple sounds better.?)

    Do I see it right?
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    No. They can mean the different things that you explain. But they can also both mean exactly the same. It’s the context that determines what’s meant — coupled with the fact that if you’re reporting something, then by definition it happened before you reported it, so you don’t need to repeat the past perfect to convey that if the context already makes it clear.

    Perfect tenses refer to what has already taken place at the time of speaking.

    If you had not told her [that] you had slept with her sister

    Simple tenses are used in several ways, such as to state a simple fact, to refer to a permanent or ongoing state, or to express a regular/habitual action. Therefore the same statement can sometimes have more than one possible meaning.
    If you had not told her [that] you slept with her sister
    = EITHER: that you had previously done that on one or more occasions
    = OR: that you were still doing that

    Progressive tenses convey that an action is or was in progress.
    If you had not told her [that] you were sleeping with her sister
    If you had not told her [that] you had been sleeping with her sister
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    And.... How I see it is ( I'll change it a bit)
    "If you had not told her you had slept with her sister" - the act of sleeping with her sister had been some time before he told it to his (let's say) wife.and when he said it to her he probably wasn't cheating on her any more

    And here " if you had not told her you slept with her sister" at the time he admmited to cheating on her he was still sleeping with her sister/ he still slept with her sister (past simple sounds better.?)

    Do I see it right?
    In these sentences we are dealing with indirect speech ("tell" is a reporting verb), so the difference between them is the same as the difference between
    John told Michelle you slept with Sarah.​
    John told Michelle you had slept with Sarah.​
    It is slightly easier to explain using four people rather than the three people in your original sentence, and I have given three of them names to make it easier to see what is going on.

    There are two explicit actions (1 and 3) and an implicit one (2):
    1. You slept with Sarah
    2. John found out that you slept with Sarah
    3. John told Michelle about it
    The only possible sequence of events is 1-2-3, and what John would actually have said is something like "He slept with Sarah".

    In ordinary indirect speech, we backshift verbs, so it should be reported as:
    John told Michelle you had slept with Sarah.​
    However, because the sequence of events is obvious even without backshifting, it is common in ordinary modern English not to backshift:
    John told Michelle you slept with Sarah.​

    There is in fact no difference at all between what these two sentences mean.

    Changing John to "you", Michelle to "her" and Sarah to "her sister" does not change things, nor does embedding it in a conditional sentence.

    Note that this "no difference at all between them" only applies where the main verb is a reporting verb such as "say" or "tell", and the sequence of events is obvious.

    [cross-posted]
     
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