Please help me understand whether I can use the past simple tense with the present simple tense in one if-clause.

My example is the question that I want to ask when speaking with English native speakers:

Would it be odd to you if I do not say "bless you" when you sneezed loudly and keep silence instead?

Is it wrong to use 'would be' followed by present simple phrase 'I do not say'?

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    This kind of use of would in the consequent demands did in the conditional. This is different from Would you mind if I listen in? where you have the “willful” would not the would of simple probability as in your case.
    – tchrist
    Oct 5, 2014 at 19:18
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    @tchrist Really? It doesn’t to me, at least not in certain contexts. “Would it be okay if I leave now?” is perfectly fine and natural to me, as is “If I give you the money, would you get me a sandwich from the cafeteria?”. In non-questions, it doesn’t work as well: “If I leave now, it would be okay” requires quite a lot more context and forcing to work—with no context, I’d call it ungrammatical. On the other hand, if you use the present “if I don’t”, then you must also use “when you sneeze” in the present. Oct 5, 2014 at 19:26
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    @JanusBahsJacquet If you keep asking me hard questions, I’m going to have to put another pot of coffee on. :) Maybe it is that when the if comes after the would that the present tense works, but when the if comes first, it may not. Shucks, I dunno.
    – tchrist
    Oct 5, 2014 at 19:27
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    The tenses should be at least consistent: do ... sneeze ... keep, do ... have sneezed ... keep, or did ... sneezed ... kept all sound fine to me. But present ... past ... present is wrong. Jan 1, 2015 at 22:50
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    The sentence in its entirety is confusing because it seems to be a conditional that's (retroactively) asking about an event ("sneezed") past. I would rewrite it as: "Is it odd to you that I did not say "bless you" when you [had] sneezed and kept silent instead?". I should add that if you changed sneezed to sneeze along with changing do to did and keep to kept, it would work. Dec 10, 2015 at 11:12

1 Answer 1


As is often the case, I get the feeling that "Is it wrong to do X"?" is perhaps not the most useful question to ask about a sentence such as yours:

Would it be odd to you if I do not say "bless you" when you sneezed loudly and keep silence instead?

Hearers and readers can work their way through a labyrinth of syntactical structures that might defeat a purely logical mechanical interpreter. Nevertheless, as I look at the example sentence, I get a feeling of vague disquiet because the wording forces me as a reader into making a more complicated series of interpretive adjustments than I would like in order to come to terms with so straightforward an underlying idea.

My advice would be to put "I do" and "[I] keep" into past tense for the greater interpretive comfort of your hearers or readers:

Would it be odd to you if I did not say "bless you" when you sneezed loudly, but kept silent instead?

or even more lucidly:

Would it seem odd to you if, instead of saying "bless you" when you sneezed loudly, I remained silent?

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