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I've just come across the following sentence:

If you were born 50 years earlier, how would your life be different now?

Wouldn't it be more precise to say:

If you had been born 50 years earlier, how would your life be different now?

or

If you had been born 50 years earlier, how would your life have been different?

(providing the person spoken about is old, and the 50 extra years would mean they'd be dead by now)?

Or - and I think that was what the author may have meant:

If you were 50 years older, how would your life be different now?

or maybe

If today were (1965+the current age of the person), how would your life be different?

  • You have asked several questions. As you seem to have a grasp of things, what is the most important thing you are asking? – WS2 Jun 19 '15 at 20:36
  • It's whether the sentence in question is fine or not. – jules Jun 19 '15 at 21:32
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"If you were born 50 years earlier, how would your life be different now?"

This is not a great sentence, for several reasons. First, earlier than what? Earlier than the present moment? Earlier than the year of your birth? Also, the "were" creates ambiguity as to whether they're asking what it would be like to live in the present moment fifty years older than you are, or whether they're asking to imagine what it would be like to live fifty years ago. If it's the latter (which simple past implies), then "If you were born 50 years ago, how would your life be different" works, although I think "had been" still sounds better there.

But the "now" suggests the former reading, in which case the best way to ask the question, in my opinion, would be "If you had been born fifty years earlier than you were, how would your life be different now?"

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