Thursday, May 28, 2009

The thing about conditionals

One of the trouble areas for English students from intermediate level up is the use of conditional sentences. More than learning the formula, e.g.

[If + clause in present simple, main clause in future tense]

If Rio is selected to host the 2016 Olympics, it will bring a lot of investment to the city and benefits for the population.

The problems come up when we have mixed conditionals,or when we make reference to a past action which conditioned the result of the present:

If the U.N. had imposed sanctions on North Korea more than two years ago, when their nuclear testing program was still a rumor, then they would not be scrambling to think of how to punish the beloved Leader, Kim Jong-Il.

Having said that, here is an interesting situation - which of these sound more "correct":

If Fran and John got married, they would have lived in Australia forever.

If Fran and John got married, they would be living in Australia forever.

If Fran and John got married, they would have been living in Australia forever.

If Fran and John had gotten married, they would be living in Australia forever.

If Fran and John had gotten married, they would have been living in Australia forever.

Any views?