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  1. "I would understand everything you said if you said it in Portuguese."

Is it any kind of conditional? And if it is, can you tell me which one? As I wrote this I had the feeling that it should be:

  1. "I would understand everything you say if you say it in Portuguese."

or,

  1. "I would understand everything you say if you said it in Portuguese."

But for some reason they don't seem to have the same meaning.

  • 2
    The version in your title is perfectly fine; the two other versions you give in the body of the question are not idiomatic. The last one you give can be made so: “I would understand everything you’re saying if you said it in Portuguese”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 18 '14 at 17:42
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    There's nothing wrong with "I would understand everything you say if you said it in Portuguese." The sentence doesn't require two past forms to get the meaning across. – Robusto Sep 18 '14 at 20:05
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    What do you mean, “which” conditional? That’s an ESL myth that does more harm than good. – tchrist Sep 19 '14 at 1:49
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    These funny conventions about capital letters differ a lot between different European languages, surprisingly (days, compass points, lots of stuff). Wouldn't worry about it too much! :) Your question's interesting. Actually people don't know very much about conditionals at all, either about their syntax or about their meaning. You're going to get lots of conflicting answers here, lots of which will be driven by tense concordance (ie style considerations). Nobody officially knows what the backshifting of tense in conditionals means! You'll get loads of what are essentially 'opinions' here! :) – Araucaria Sep 19 '14 at 20:57
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    @Farid People have been researching the difference between these types of conditionals for 2,400 years. They haven't got anywhere yet! There's practically a whole "conditionals" industry in linguistics. They haven't found out very much, really ... – Araucaria Oct 29 '15 at 10:30
1

Conditionals have three forms.

  1. If you work hard, you will succeed.

  2. If you worked hard, you would succeed.

  3. If you had worked hard, you would have succeeded.

If you think about their meanings, you will understand why the tenses correspond to each other like this.

In #1, the cause is in present, in control, the result in future, unknown.

In #2, the cause is in present, though past tense is used, but it's not in control. Kinda like a teacher reprimanding a student after bad grade in one small quic.

In #3, the cause was in past, absolutely out of control. And the result is also in past, out of control obviously. Kinda like when a teacher shakes her head after a student has failed the course/class.

Let's look at your sentence now,

I would understand everything you said if you said it in Portuguese.

I think it should be:

I will understand everything you say, if you say it in Portuguese.

Or

I would understand everything you said, if you said it in Portuguese.

The sentence you mention is correct as it is, but depending on what the situation is (Think teacher/student: beginning of semester, just a quiz, or end of semester), you can fit in one of the conditionals.

0

"even if you said it in Portuguese" conveys the meaning you are after in your comment to the original post - or use "still", as you do in the comment. The 2 "said"s are fine in British English usage.

0

Other answers have offered different scenarios but, assuming someone had said something and you were suggesting you would have understood it in your native language, then maybe:

'I would understand everything you said if you had said it in Portuguese.'

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I understand everything you say if you say it in Portuguese.

is a statement of fact and suggests that the other person occasionally does say things in Portuguese. On those occasions you speak Portuguese, I do understand you; when you speak English, I do not.

I will understand everything you say if you say it in Portuguese.

is a prediction about the future. If you could switch to Portuguese, then I could understand you.

I would understand everything you say if you said it in Portuguese.

"Said" here is in the subjunctive mood. You are making a counter-factual statement -- the other person has not been speaking Portuguese -- so the main clause is in the conditional mode, "would understand", and the conditional clause is in the subjunctive.

Perhaps, but perhaps not, that would be more obvious if the sentence were phrased as:

I would understand everything you say if you were to say it in Portuguese.

Huh. Look at that: I used the subjunctive myself without even noticing ("sentence were phrased").

(Note that "Portuguese", deriving as it does from the name of a specific geographic location, is always capitalized.)

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    The difference between "I would give up everything I owned if ..." and "I would give up everything I own if ..." is that in the second one, it's everything you own at the moment you're saying it, and in the first, it's everything you own at the time you give things up. Given this difference in meaning, it's very difficult to see why you would want to use "say" instead of "said" in the OP's construction. – Peter Shor Sep 18 '14 at 18:42
  • Because I was taught to follow rules. when I was learning English my teachers would tell me that there are 4 conditionals and one of them, the second conditional is used to express a possibility. So I started thinking that the structure had to be always the same. So here, following the rules regarding the second conditional would be "I would understand everything you say if you said it in Portuguese" or "If you said it in Portuguese I would understand everything you say". But it seems that in this sentence I'm not understanding what he or she is saying. And I do understand. – Pedro Sep 18 '14 at 18:53
  • I could have said "I would understand everything you say, even if you said it in Portuguese.". This way I can express what I want to. But the thing is it sounds better if I say "I would understand everything you said, even if you said it in Portuguese". But I've never heard of such structure, and because of that I keep thinking that it is wrong. – Pedro Sep 18 '14 at 19:02
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    @Pedro: I don't think the verb "said" in "I would understand everything (that) you said ..." is acting as a conditional, the way the verb "would understand" is, so I don't think the rules for the first/second/third conditional constructions taught in ESL classes apply to it. And as I said in my comment above, "everything that you say" and "everything that you said" mean slightly different things here, and the one you want is "said". – Peter Shor Sep 20 '14 at 19:22

protected by Community Nov 25 '15 at 8:39

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