Are both 'If he calls you, you should go.' and 'If he called you, you should go.' correct? Is there a difference in meaning between them? Thank you!


The difference between those sentences is the time reference.

For the first one, you're talking about a possibility that might happen in a near future (he might call you).

The second one is referring to an action that happened in the past (he has already called you), so the second statement should also be in a past tense: you should have gone.

  • Why is the second one referring to an action that has already happened. Isn't past simple used to express present, something that might happen, in this case? – Maria Loredana Jul 16 '15 at 9:33
  • Past simple can be use for referring to a future situation, but is normally used for situations that are not likely to happen: if I won the lottery, I would buy a new car. This is known as the second conditional. In your case, the first sentence is referring to a future situation (first conditional), and the second would only have a sense if it's referring to a past situation. – midobal Jul 16 '15 at 9:51
  • Ok, thank you! So, if that call would be something with virtually no chance to happen, would the sentece 'If he called you, I would be most happy.' make sense? And could I replace that 'would' with 'should', 'If he called you I should be most happy.' or in type two conditionals I can only use 'would'? – Maria Loredana Jul 16 '15 at 10:06
  • Yes, in that case it would be correct to use a second conditional. And yes, you can also use should, could and might in stead of _would_on a second conditional. – midobal Jul 16 '15 at 10:16
  • -1: There are three possibilities here. (1) The call and the going are in the past: If he called you, you should have gone. (2) The call and the going are in the future: If he calls you, you should go. (3) The call is in the past, and the going is in the future: If he called you, you should go. ESL classes that teach there are only three (or four) conditionals are just wrong. – Peter Shor Jul 16 '15 at 10:20

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