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I saw this advertisement while waiting for the subway in a town in Germany:

English fit for travel, as if you have your teacher with you.

Is this proper English? I would have said it should be as if you had your teacher with you.

EDIT: The context is an advertisement for an English language course. There is a guy sitting on a suitcase next to the sentence. I guess it means your English will be so good, it will be as if you had (have?) a teacher with you.

  • It depends slightly on the context, I'd say. – Blubberguy22 Jul 13 '15 at 21:22
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    Have makes it more 'now' - with you, as you go. – Dan Jul 13 '15 at 21:47
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    books.google.com/ngrams/… – TRomano Jul 14 '15 at 1:28
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    You are not the only one riding the subway: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/61760/… – Stephie Jul 14 '15 at 8:28
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    Yes, you are right. The commercial probably meant "had" here. For the situation would be one where the teacher is NOT there with you. The version with "have" has an open-type of interpretation: the speaker has no opinion as to whether or not the teacher is there next to you. The "had" has a modal remote type of interpretation, where the speaker does have an opinion, and it is that the teacher most likely is not there next to you. The past-tense of a verb is often used to show that modal remoteness. (reference: H&P CGEL, page 1152-3) :) – F.E. Jul 14 '15 at 20:56
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This is a great question. I had to think about it for a while! AmE native, btw.

"As if you had your teacher with you" is definitely grammatically correct and sounds natural when spoken. If you're erring on the side of caution, certainly go with the "had" version.

If we venture off the grammatically correct path and wander a bit into the forest of sounds-okay-when-spoken-but-maybe-don't-say-it-to-a-pedantic-grammarian-or-put-it-in-a-term-paper, the "have" version might be acceptable as well. It somewhat accents the present-tense aspect of the phrase. It might connote the feeling "this course is so good it'll feel like your teacher is with you all the time, very much in the present".

Note that this feeling is by no means a hard and fast rule and different English speakers, especially the purists among us, might beg strongly to differ. However, in spoken American English, many good speakers might not bat an eye at the "have" version. Whether the English language company that wrote the ad put this much thought behind it or not is another question entirely.

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When you say

as if you had your teacher with you

You have created a subjunctive mood, meaning that it is highly unlikely that your teacher can be with.

The opposite of subjunctive is an indicative mood.

Saying

as if you have your teacher with you

would indicate that your teacher is with you. Either in spirit or in reality, or some other abstract and discreet form.

Since this is an advertisement, the message is most likely saying that whatever product or service they are selling IS your teacher.

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