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I am writing subtitles for a rare, old foreign movie (in Italian) for my English speaking friends. I have a doubt. What is the correct form among the following, and can you help me understand why?

He built a temple for when the rain would come

He built a temple for when the rain would have come

The character in this story is building a temple to protect his family in case a prophesied event (a devastating and endless rain, as in the tale of Noah) occurs.

The original phrase in Italian, in case you are interested, is:

Ha costruito un tempio per quando la pioggia sarebbe arrivata.

Thank you!

  • maybe "for the rain to come"..., or "for the rain that was coming". – Cascabel Jan 7 '18 at 19:52
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    "for the rain that was to come..." – TheAsh Jan 7 '18 at 20:02
  • The second connotes some time well after the rain would have fallen. The first is your best bet, and less confusing – Jason P Sallinger Jan 8 '18 at 1:29
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For the Italian:

Ha costruito un tempio per quando la pioggia sarebbe arrivata.

Your first guess is the simplest, and probably also the clearest translation of your Italian sentence into English:

  1. He built a temple for when the rain would come.

It translates pretty cleanly from the conditional in Italian because English shares with Romance the use of the conditional in these situations. Although many Romance languages additionally admit an imperfect subjunctive in “when” type clauses such as these — and if you dig back far enough you can find examples of English sometimes doing so as well — this was never done consistently at any point in our history, and present-day English certainly does not do so.

That’s why these don’t sound grammatical to our ear, or at best hopeless archaic and possibly even confusing:

  1. He built a temple for when the rain *were come.
  2. He built a temple for when the rain *were to come.

It might be possible to argue that should could work here, but I’m not going to try because it sounds too formal.

However, a simpler version is possible using the simple past:

  1. He built a temple for when the rain came.

That does lose a bit of the aspect, but that’s probably ok here. It’s also possible to swap around the come verb into an -ing progressive:

  1. He built a temple for the coming rain.
  • Thank you so much for the clear, detailed reply. I could not have asked for anything more than this. – Lawrence Jan 7 '18 at 20:51
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"He built a temple in preparation for the coming rain" is clear and avoids ambiguity.

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