What if there should be an earthquake?

matar0

Senior Member
Italian, Italy
Can I say:

What if there should be an earthquake?

Or:

What if there were to be an earthquake?

Instead of :

What if there were an earthquake?

Thx
 
  • They all look correct to me. :) The first expresses more personal concern about the prospect to me, somehow, but I'm not sure why. I would expect to hear it spoken in a more urgent tone than the second and third choices.
     
    Yes, absolutely; they are all correct but What if there were... is a much more common usage - the other two sound somewhat over-precise and a bit old-fashioned.

    What if there was an earthquake isn't strictly correct, but you will hear that too; it's the most colloquial.
     
    Do you think if there should be an earthquake is right? To me it sounds like a non native speaking English as a second language Israelis and Germans often use this sort of construction.
     
    Do you think if there should be an earthquake is right? To me it sounds like a non native speaking English as a second language Israelis and Germans often use this sort of construction.

    Google shows over 284,000 hits on this phrase. Scanning through them, I find a variety of contexts, from religious to technical to academic to conversational.

    Here are a few examples:

    From the University of New Hampshire website:

    "What if there should be collective bargaining on course loads, promotion and tenure, or academic freedom?"

    From an article on India (at freeman.org):

    "And what if there should be an actual nuclear war on the Indian subcontinent? What would such a war imply for the Middle East?"

    From a Seinfeld script:

    Kramer: "Well, what if there should be an unfortunate accident?"
    Jerry: "You're going to rub out the dog?"
    Kramer: "No, no. Not me. I just happen to know someone ..."

    From BBC World War II stories (www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/76/a3330776.shtml):

    "What if there should be a gas attack today? How would we know if one had taken place?"
     
    I wouldn't take google as an authority. I am talking as someone who is native British English speaker. This doesn't mean I am right but does indicate at least an informed hunch based on 40 years of speaking and being surrounded by the language.

    I wouldn't say what if there should be a telephone call or a power cut, so why would I say what if there should be an earthquake?
     
    I wouldn't take google as an authority. I am talking as someone who is native British English speaker. This doesn't mean I am right but does indicate at least an informed hunch based on 40 years of speaking and being surrounded by the language.

    I wouldn't say what if there should be a telephone call or a power cut, so why would I say what if there should be an earthquake?

    Perhaps you wouldn't. :) I'm just saying that many others do, by all indications, in various contexts. It may be an AE/BE thing. I don't know. But you asked if it sounded right, and there seem to be enough citations to indicate that people as diverse as college professors, scriptwriters, and British people writing reminiscences of WW II use it.
     
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