If you listened to last week’s Natural World, you would know that we had a lot of unanswered questions about trees. 

This sentence is from our text book "New Hello".

I wonder if it should have been written as follows:
If you had listened to last week’s Natural World, you would know that we had a lot of unanswered questions about trees.

THANKS

Original Post
Rasha Assem posted:

If you listened to last week’s Natural World, you would know that we had a lot of unanswered questions about trees. 

This sentence is from our text book "New Hello".

I wonder if it should have been written as follows:
If you had listened to last week’s Natural World, you would know that we had a lot of unanswered questions about trees.

Hello, Rasha,

The "New Hello" book has used a type 2 conditional. The speaker is implying that it is uncertain or doubtful that the addressee(s) listened to the program.

Your revision changes the type 2 conditional to a past counterfactual; it implies that the speaker is certain that addressee did not watch the program.

The difference between them is one of meaning, not of grammatical correctness. The speaker should use the sentence that expresses her intended meaning.

Rasha Assem posted:

Can we use type 2 conditional to express doubt concerning something that might or might not have happened in the past?

In this case, it isn't the past tense that expresses that it is uncertain to the speaker whether the addressee listened to the program; here the past tense really does refer to the past. It is "if" together with the use "would" in the main clause that expresses the uncertainty. This is not a textbook case of a type 2 conditional, nor is it a bizarre variation that I feel like discussing at length. You can change it to a past-counterfactual conditional if you like, but the meaning will change.

Thank you for clarifying that it "listened" here is "does really refer to the past." What confused me was that I thought "listened" is a past subjunctive. I don't want to change it. I just wanted to understand it and know how such a structure can be used outside textbooks. That's why I asked for a couple more examples just to get it, but I've already understand enough. Sorry for any inconvenience. 

Ahmed Imam Attia posted:

Could you please have a look at the following link (your previous answer)?

I think the answers are completely different, right?

The answers are different, but the sentences the answers concern are different, too! In the other thread, "would have known" is used in the main clause. Do you see "would have known" in Rasha's example, Ahmed Imam Attia? I think that if you look really closely you will see that "would know" is used in Rasha's example.

Rasha Assem posted:

Thank you for clarifying that it "listened" here is "does really refer to the past." What confused me was that I thought "listened" is a past subjunctive.

Hello, Rasha Assem,

I agree with David. The clues to interpret that the past is real (not unreal or "subjunctive," as you say) in the original sentence are "last week" in the condition and "had" in the result. If "last week," which refers to one particular broadcast of the program, and "had," which refers to one specific occurrence in the past (the fact that the program left many questions about trees unanswered) were not present, then we could interpret the condition as describing a habitual situation, and the unreal past interpretation would be possible, for example:

- If you listened to Natural World, you would know many interesting things about the environment.  (The person is not a regular listener and as a result ignores many things about the environment.)

Just as I said in this other thread about "would have + past participle" not expressing probability in the present, I wouldn't choose "would" with a simple infinitive to express that meaning either. I would use must or will:

- If you listened to last week’s Natural World, you must / will know that we had a lot of unanswered questions about trees. (The person did listen to that program, so the speaker guesses the person is aware that many questions about trees were not answered.)

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×