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A student asked me this question today about a sentence like:

(1) If Canada's population is 40 million, the Canadian economy will have been more dynamic.

I was asked if it corresponded, in a future conditional sense, to the third conditional sentence (2) If Canada's population had been 40 million, the Canadian economy would have been more dynamic.

To me, sentence #1 sounds utterly ungrammatical, and my tentative theory is that the ungrammaticality is because of the stative/non-action verb in the if-clause. I can come up with unusual--but grammatical--sentences using Future Perfect in the main clause and a Simple Present action verb in the if-clause, such as If she agrees to marry me, we will have lived together for a year by next Christmas. But I have not been able to dream up a corresponding, grammatical example that uses a stative/non-action verb in the if-clause, nor can I think of a way to transpose the meaning of #2 (third conditional) to #1.

I need some help with this, and my search of umpteen grammar reference books, Google, and the ELU archives has not helped. Please enlighten me.

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Would this if-clause in #1 be better served in the subjunctive? "If Canada's population were 40 million, the Canadian economy would be/would have been more dynamic." –  livresque Feb 26 '13 at 15:31
    
@livresque, thank you for the suggestions. But would be has a present unreal meaning and would have been has a past unreal meaning. My student asked for a transposition of the main clause into a future meaning, and I am stymied about whether or not such a statement is possible in English with a stative/non-action verb. –  Shawn Mooney Feb 26 '13 at 15:42
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Sentence (1) is semantically void. The only way it'd make sense is: If Canada's population is 40 million [implies but doesn't state future condition], the Canadian economy will be more dynamic. But it'd still be too colloquial unless context makes it clear that the if-clause should be If Canada's population were 40 million, in which case the then-clause has to be the Canadian economy would be more dynamic. I don't think it's possible to make such a statement without a time-frame, which S(2) has but S(1) doesn't. I'm not sure about the stative/non-action verb condition. –  user21497 Feb 26 '13 at 15:53
    
Thank you for clarifying. I feel like I'm missing something about the meaning, but still S(1) does not compute on any level. Perhaps the meaning is along the lines of: "Given that the population of Canada is at 40 million, the Canadian economy will be more dynamic in the near future." This does have meaning, and it is grammatically correct, but it also predicts the future, which is always risky business. To put the main clause into the future active indicative has many implications. –  livresque Feb 26 '13 at 16:09
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"If she is still ill on Friday, she will have missed three practices." –  Peter Shor Mar 1 '13 at 3:40
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4 Answers

I surely don't know how to identify the parts of the grammar as well as you, but based on the example given, would this be a valid answer?

If I am a typical man, my life will have been of little use to my Creator.

or

If my life is a typical life, it will have been of little use to my Creator.

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That is not grammatically correct. You should say: *If I am a typical man, my life is of little use to my Creator." –  The Frog Mar 1 '13 at 0:57
    
@The Frog: You seem to have missed Charles' point. This specific sentence is correct, analogous to "If my cooking is as good as usual, the family will not have enjoyed supper." It requires that the speaker does not actually know the result (more plausible in Charles' sentence than mine), and it's convoluted; but it's possible. However, @Charles; no, it's not a fair analogy, because you may not know whether you are typical (let alone the Creator's future view of you) but you do know that Canada's population is less than 40 million. –  TimLymington Mar 1 '13 at 23:16
    
My two sentences are rooted in Matthew 7:13-14 (which I just looked up), which says "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." My point is that the typical man does not serve his Creator very well. It is also a challenge to live well and be extraordinary. –  Charles Mar 4 '13 at 5:36
    
@TimLymington You are obviously right. Here is a quote that illustrates the construction: To have a goal is the important thing, and to work toward it. Then, if you decide you wish to do something different, you will at least have been moving, you will have been going somewhere, you will have been learning. (Louis L'Amour, The Lonesome Gods) –  The Frog Mar 5 '13 at 8:49
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I agree with you that it's utterly ungrammatical. Your second example sentence is to me the correct version of this. I don't know where the sentence came from though, and why you insist on trying to interpret it as grammatically correct.

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Past

If Canada's population had been 40 million, the Canadian economy would have been more dynamic.

Present

If Canada's population were 40 million, the Canadian economy would be more dynamic.

You could say is when the clause introduced by the if is not a condition but a consequence, as in:

If Canada's population is 40 million, it is because people are living longer.

You could also use is if you doubt a fact, e.g.

I do not believe the extrapolation of the last census. If Canada's population is 40 million, the Canadian economy must be more dynamic than what I thought.

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If mayor Ford IS high on crack cocaine, he WILL SUFFER a drug withdrawal.

The sentence "If Canada's population IS 40 million, the Canadian economy WILL BE more dynamic" gives sense and is grammatically correct if the previous or the previous sentences acts or act as a qualifier to the sentence that follows. An example : "As a general rule, the increase of a population causes an economy to expand and this year the population count reached 40 million. If Canada's population IS [indeed] 40 million, the Canadian economy WILL BE more dynamic" A 'qualifying sentence' does not have to be used if the fact or facts relevant to the meaning of a sentence are generally well understood. In the case of the mayor Ford statement it is well known that the use of drugs causes drug withdrawals and thus a logical link that gives this sentence a coherence of meaning is naturally provided.

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