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Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

Mixed Clauses / Unreal Sentence Construction

In the following sentence, are both parts of the clause correct for a present unreal sentence?

“She would have wanted you to become a doctor if she were alive today”

In this sentence, shouldn’t it be this?

“She would want you to become a doctor if she...”

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Comments

I'm no expert, but I'm guessing that the rule of thumb is to use similar moods and tenses in each part of the sentence.

If we rearrange these sentences with the the "If-statements" first, it might be easier to analyze them:

1.) If she were alive today, she would have wanted you to become a doctor.

2.) If she were alive today, she would want you to become a doctor.

Both of these rearranged sentences start by using the past subjunctive (simple-past tense): "If she were alive today...." I would expect a similar use of the past subjunctive in the second half of the sentence to match the first part. The second sentence seems to do just that: "If she [were alive] today, she [would want] you to become a doctor."

Brian Garner's "The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation" says that the past subjunctive really refers to the present or future even though it uses the past tense. This seems to fit #2 because it seems to be making a statement about the present.

If the first part of the sentence were making a statement about the past, you would have used the past-perfect subjunctive: "If she had been alive in the 1900s, she would have wanted you to become a doctor." Because the first part of the sentence uses the past-perfect subjunctive (had been alive), the second has a matching past-perfect subjunctive (would have wanted).

What do others think?

rhetoric101 Sep-20-2018

12 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

"We're" is correct because it is used when the statement is hypothetical.

Lizbet Nov-11-2018

3 votes   Permalink   Report Abuse

I first started noticing the "shtr" mispronunciation in the early Eighties. Since then, more and more people have adopted this silly peccadillo to the point where it's almost become the preferred pronunciation.

When I point it out to people, almost all say they don't hear it, and many seem to think I'm just imagining the whole thing.

Not five minutes ago on a TV commercial, the (professional) spokesperson pronounced "history" as "hishtry," which even breaks the "str" rule.

As a person who takes pride in correctly pronouncing words, it "frushtrates" me to hear people butcher the language.

What can be done? As Lizzie Borden's father said, don't axe me. All I can do is continue to point it out and hope others will do the same.

user107647 Feb-06-2019

1 vote   Permalink   Report Abuse

Would I presume is past tense of will. She would want you... here there is no doubt of what she would have wanted. Where as " She would have wanted you...", is merely a wish.

Allen Govind May-07-2019

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I pronounced history not as hishtry hut histry with the accent on the H and deemed it correct. Where as historian is pronounced as spelt. It is not an unusual thing in English for a word to take its own character. One good example might be: in writing " particular ", but in speech is pronounced peticular. I don't know, that is what I am lead to believe.

Allen Govind May-07-2019

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Another thing to consider is the sequence of events.

Has the person/character already chosen a career (Would have wanted you to) or are they making a choice right now (would want you to)?
Depending on the answer, the subjunctive (if she were alive today) might be the part that needs changing.

This one feels correct:
2.) If she were alive today, she would want you to become a doctor.
It feels correct because today is when the decision is being made in that sentence.

If the decision has already been made this would be more appropriate:
3.) If she had been alive, she would have wanted you to become a doctor.

The point is, her not being alive must line up temporally with the decision.

AliCatFish May-23-2019

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