Reality Check

To quote one of my readers, “If I was you, I’d write slang all the time. That’d be awesome!”

While a compliment, this quote causes me to shriek. However, at the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish, I indeed thanked that person for writing so little while also providing me with yet another blog post: imaginative conditional sentences — a rich, absorbing, and complicated area in English grammar. (His use of the word awesome deserves its own blog. I will tackle that problem later.)

In grammar, imaginative conditional sentences express hypothetical conditions or conditions the speaker views as not factual. They may be dreams or wishes, or they could express advice. Here, we use the subjunctive verb form — the simple past tense — in the “if” clause, but we use were, not was, for the verb be.

For the present unreal conditional, as its title suggests, the situation is in the present and the situation is not real:

If I had enough vacation days, I would spend time in Hawaii. (Unfortunately, the situation is in the present tense and is not real: I don’t have enough vacation days, so I won’t be spending time in Hawaii.)

If Alex were motivated, he’d pursue his dreams. (Poor thing. Alex isn’t motivated, so he doesn’t pursue his dreams.) Note: As I previously stated, were is used instead of was for the conditional.

If Hal knew how to drive to Bob’s house, they wouldn’t be arguing now. (Nevertheless, Hal knows not how to drive to Bob’s house, so they’re arguing now.)

At your next brunch, if you grow weary of the bland conversation and are desperate to revive yourself and the others with whom you are brunching, inject your perspective on the present unreal conditional into your repartee. I’m sure your hobnobbers (aka chums, posse, what have you) will have no choice but to conclude you are a fascinating person — and what seemed like mere chitchat before will now border on the philosophical.

If I were you, I’d do it.

My English Quarters
Hallie Belt