If I bought that book, it would be so I had something to give to you on your birthday.

Now, as far as i know, in hypothetical sentences, you have to backshift all tenses one step to the past. So:

buy = bought
will = would
have = had

Feel free to correct me if you think i'm wrong.

Now, going by so far as my knowledge about backshifting all the tenses to the past one step goes when constructing hypothetical sentences, is the above sentence grammatically correct?

  • 1
    Possible duplicate of "He didn't know where New Jersey was"
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 13:40
  • It's not a duplicate of that question; this one is about backshifting in hypothetical sentences, while that one is about backshifting with verbs like know. Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 13:47
  • I think the answer is the same as for backshifting with indirect speech. You can backshift everything, but there are some situations where you don't actually have to. "If I moved out of California, it would be so I don't get killed when the big earthquake comes," sounds fine to me, but it also sounds fine backshifted. Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


To quote your own words at you:

"If you think I'm wrong" is hypothetical and not backshifted and perfectly fine.

"If you thought I was wrong" is backshifted and just as perfectly fine. Just be consistent.

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