What is the difference between the sentences below?

  1. Mary decided to get pregnant before it was too late.
  2. Mary decided to get pregnant before it would be too late.
  • I think that under a grammatical perspective there is no difference because either are ungrammatical. Dec 29, 2013 at 22:11
  • 5
    @ElberichSchneider You would be incorrect about that.
    – user28567
    Dec 29, 2013 at 22:13
  • @snail, I was taught by my teacher that in (1) you should use 'were' and in (2) 'it would have been', so what are you talking about? Dec 29, 2013 at 22:20
  • Both sound good to me. There might possibly be slight differences in some contexts, maybe. Anyway . . .
    – F.E.
    Dec 29, 2013 at 23:06
  • In both cases Mary avoided extinction! Hallelujah!
    – Sam
    Dec 30, 2013 at 3:43

2 Answers 2


Regarding 1)

  • This is colloquial, i.e. what native speakers would say. Use this one.
  • The commenter's suggestion "before it were too late" isn't necessary.

Regarding 2)

  • I can't imagine a scenario where that sentence would be appropriate. Adding 'would' turns the sentence into a conditional, but the first half ("Mary decided to get pregnant") is awkward next to this conditional, and has no 'if' (or equatable) statement. If there is to be a conditional in this part of the story, split it into a new sentence.
  • The commenter's suggestion for "it would have been" is correct, given the sentence is written in the past tense.

The way I hear most people say it is " before it's/it is too late." I must admit that I don't often hear people say the two you have down there.

  • Hello, and welcome to EL&U. Cool name, by the way. Dec 30, 2013 at 7:12

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