English grammar and usage issues

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Unread postby kova313 » 29 May 2006, 19:48

Hi, I have another question... I've just read this in some book for English teachers:
The verb in the IF clause is in the past tense form, the verb in the result clause is preceded by the modal WOULD, could or might.

One of the example is:
John, if you would turn on the light there, please.

To my knowledge would and if are not supposed to be both in the same clause.

Would that be a mistake in the book or am I missing something?

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Unread postby Jana » 12 Jun 2006, 09:51

Hi, your grammar rule is OK, I think the combination of would and if is an exception used only with very polite requests and formal correspondence.

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Unread postby bnleez » 01 Jul 2006, 14:25

I agree with Jana. I would add that not all if clauses are conditionals. The example you gave, "John, if you would turn on the light there, please.", is not a conditional sentence, rather a request.

To expand on the second conditional, Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman explain a hypothetical (present and future) and counterfactual conditional (present) as it pertains to the second conditional (1983, p. 343-344). Alternate verb forms with modals can be used in the if clause of a hypothetical conditional.

Example: If my sister should happened to have money, she would buy a dress.

This cannot happen in the counterfactual conditional.

Example: *If I should be Superman, I would fly around the world.

I highly recommended The Grammar Book for additional reading on grammar in general.


Celce-Murcia, M. & Larsen-Freeman, D. (1983). The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course. Boston, Massachusetts: Heinle & Heinle Publishers.

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