It's The Simpsons Movie, again. Bart says this to Flanders right after he's entered the church Flanders was in.

Bart: Listen, I was wondering if before I died I could pretend I had a father who cared for me.
Ned: Come here, son. There's always room for one more in the Flanders clan.

  • Wouldn't it be okay if died was replaced with die?
  • Why should it be in the past tense?
  • 3
    I was wondering if this could be the conditional tense poking its head into English. – Spencer Nov 21 '16 at 13:12
  • What @Spencer said. I think it's like But there was one thing, she said. If before he went he could manage to fix the horse trough, so it's more "conditional = hypothetical = not present" (as in English only has two tenses - present and "not present"). – FumbleFingers Nov 21 '16 at 13:21
  • @Spencer Oh, the conditional tense! I've been using it only with wish and if. Didn't know it's used this way. edit Well, it has if. I think I'm just ignorant. – hjjg200 Nov 21 '16 at 13:30
  • 1
    Ugh. Folks. Conditional is a mood, not a tense. There is no such thing as a conditional tense. Stop saying that. Please. It physically hurts. – RegDwigнt Nov 21 '16 at 14:43
  • 1
    @RegDwigнt: in some langauges, conditional is a tense. In English, hardly anything is a tense (in any sensible framework, there's no future tense, for example) and I'm not convinced that anything is a mood. I'd say conditional is a construction, or pattern. – Colin Fine Nov 21 '16 at 15:55

The use of the past tense form 'died' signifies that this is an irrealis (or counter-factual) condition, and therefore implies that he definitely hasn't got a father who cares for him.

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