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Let's say you're at a crossroad; two paths. You walk the one and then think:

If I had walked that other route then I would probably have been in a worse situation now.

My problem with the above is that the modal verb, would, has a d at the end which I can't stop obsessing that it is a strict past tense. The thing is that you're still walking the path which means that if you had walked that other path then you wouldn't have been in the trouble and then out of it but still in it which means it should be in present tense?

If I walked that other route I will probably be in a worse situation by now.

I know the above is wrong, primarily because it sounds off, but not why. I know modal verbs denote what would have happened and since it didn't happen it can't and isn't refered to in present tense but it just seems so much more logical to me but grammar doesn't agree, some-one help me out here?

(I also tried to write more clearer examples but they all fell apart so here's a mini-story of kind. I also read through alot of other questions like these but I couldn't apply them to my scenario.)

  • Your first sentence is an example of the third conditional(or the past conditional). In your second example you've mixed up the first and second conditionals. – peerless Sep 8 '17 at 6:00
  • I regard "could", "should", "would", "might" as the past tenses of "can", "shall", "will", "may" rather than modals in their own right. CGEL agrees, and so do most traditional sources. But I know that some people prefer to consider "could", "should" etc as separate words, modals in their own right. Of course, "would" often doesn't refer to the past, but neither does the English past tense in general - it frequently refers to hypotheticals, like the "ate" in "if I ate it, I would feel sick". – rjpond Sep 8 '17 at 7:15
  • There's nothing wrong with the "would" in your first sentence, but you typically follow it with a bare infinitive to indicate that your counterfactual is for right now: If I had walked that other route then I would probably be in a worse situation now. – 1006a Sep 8 '17 at 18:53
  • Uh… from either a grammatical or a philosophical perspective, your question needs revising. – Robbie Goodwin Sep 8 '17 at 21:56

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