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I've read that in conditional sentences, tenses don't have to match. Is this true for sentences that contain "if it means"? In the examples below, I'm trying to say something like "I won't write to you if it's going to help me not miss you".

  • I will not write you if it means that I won't miss you.
  • I will not write you if it means that I don't have to miss you.
  • I will not write you if it'll mean that I won't miss you.

Do these basically mean the same thing or is one more right than the other?

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I think "I won't write you if it means that I won't need to miss you" sounds best –  Jeremy Mar 29 '13 at 4:05
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1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I find the semantics of OP's example a bit odd, so I'll switch to...

1: We won't go to the party if it means we need a babysitter
2: We won't go to the party if it means we will need a babysitter
3: We won't go to the party if it means we would need a babysitter

Those alternatives (given in descending order of popularity) are all valid, and all mean the same.

If you're doubtful about #3, consider "...if it means I would have to [do something]". But also note that in such "hypothetical" constructions, "I wouldn't do this if it meant I would have to do that" is far more common.


OP's third example (changing present tense means to future tense will mean) is non-standard.

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Wow, thank you! So as a practice sentence, is the following sentence okay? I tried to mimic your examples by using would instead of will. "I would quit my current job if it means I will earn more money." –  Pato Mar 29 '13 at 12:14
    
@Pato: As my last paragraph indicates, if you introduce your hypothetical scenario with "I would [do something] if...", the far more common (and more grammatically correct/consistent) way to continue is with "...if it meant [something else] would happen". So in the example you've just presented there, the "standard" form is "I would quit my current job if it meant I would earn more money." Alternatively (perhaps less common, but equally correct) you could say "I will quit my current job if it means I will earn more money." –  FumbleFingers Mar 29 '13 at 15:46
    
...It's also perfectly reasonable to discard the final "future tense" indicator, so you could say "I will quit my current job if it means I earn more money." –  FumbleFingers Mar 29 '13 at 15:47
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