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I was reading an AP report and I came up at the following passage:

If the NATO troops do pull back, it would leave vast areas of the country unprotected including border areas with Pakistan. It would essentially mean the end of the strategy of trying to win hearts and minds by working with and protecting the local populations.

Shouldn't this be 'did' at the first place?

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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are two possibilities, summed up by did-would and do-will; not do-would (except for colloquial/informal cases where do means essentially the same thing as did).

If it was meant to be did-would, were to is a more commonly acclaimed phrase (making this a future subjunctive construction):

If the NATO troops were to pull back, it would leave vast areas of the country unprotected including border areas with Pakistan.

Did (or Past Simple) can be simply another way to express the subjunctive (replacing were to):

If the NATO troops did pull back, it would leave vast areas of the country unprotected including border areas with Pakistan.

If it was meant to be do-will, then it's a factual conditional construction:

If the NATO troops do pull back, it will leave vast areas of the country unprotected including border areas with Pakistan.

Wikipedia has some examples of proper usage, demonstrating both factual future conditional and future subjunctive:

If + Present Simple/Present Progressive + Present Simple/Present Progressive/Future Simple/Future Progressive/Imperative

  • If + I miss the bus, + I will be late for school

If + Present Perfect/Present Perfect Progressive/Preterite/Past Continuous + Full Infinitive + Conditional Present/Conditional Present Progressive:

  • If + I was + to miss the bus, + I would be late for school.

In some dialects: If + Imperfect Subjunctive + Full Infinitive + Conditional Present/Conditional Present Progressive

  • If + I were + to miss the bus, + I would be late for school.

In some dialects: If + modal auxiliary "should" + Bare Infinitive + Conditional Present/Conditional Present Progressive

  • If + I should + miss the bus, + I would be late for school.
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If we do get ice cream later tonight, it would leave our piggy bank empty; it would mean we can't get ice cream tomorrow sounds fine to me in normal speech. I understand your point, but I think I use did for something hypothetical and do for something that may well happen, without regard for the statement that follows. If other speakers do so as well, that explains the phenomenon. It's also not clear if OP's excerpt is part of a quote/reported speech. –  aedia λ Mar 15 '12 at 18:21
    
@aediaλ- it's not a quote nor a reported speech. –  Noah Mar 15 '12 at 18:47
    
I just knew there had to be a downvote somewhere. What is it this time? –  Daniel Mar 15 '12 at 19:18
3  
If NATO do downvote, it would be better if they left a comment. –  Matt Эллен Mar 15 '12 at 21:19
    
The "it would mean we can't get ice cream tomorrow" isn't quite right to me. "it would mean we couldn't get ice cream tomorrow" is the preferred construction. –  Jim Mar 16 '12 at 3:27
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