What if you fall/fell out of a boat?

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  • There is a slight difference. The first seems to invite the boy to look at some point in the future, when he falls out of a boat.

    The second has a more atemporal or hypothetical feel, somewhat like "Consider a case where you're in a boat and you fall out. What would you do?"

    OR "Suppose you were in a boat and fell out? What then?"
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    There is little (if any) practical difference.

    In some contexts the use of fell would mean that falling is less likely (e.g. What would happen if you were to fall out of the boat?).

    The use of fall suggests a real possibility, e.g. What will happen if you fall out of the boat?

    Cross-posted.
     

    Nikined

    Senior Member
    Russian
    There is little (if any) practical difference.

    In some contexts the use of fell would mean that falling is less likely (e.g. What would happen if you were to fall out of the boat?).

    The use of fall suggests a real possibility, e.g. What will happen if you fall out of the boat?

    Cross-posted.
    And what’s the difference of your example and “What if you fell out of a boat?”
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The person who says what if you fell out of a boat? may think that the possibility of falling is smaller. But I see no reason for preferring fell to fall, or vice versa.

    We have two patterns:
    1) If I find out, I will tell you. (present tense...future tense)
    2) If I knew the answer [which I don't], I would tell you. (past tense, conditional tense)
     
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