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I would like to ask, if the sentence below is grammatical and how can we understand this sentence:

If the car was sold in the last week, you wouldn't see this in the public database yet.

Also, can we understand from this sentence that selling a car in the past influence the present?

I mean someone has sold a car in the past and to this very moment you can't see it in the database?

Thank you very much in advance for the answer.

  • In this sentence, the past doesn't influence the present. The car wouldn't be in the public database whether it wasn't sold or whether it was sold in the last week. – Peter Shor Feb 8 at 0:53
  • If you had meant this to refer to the car, then you should have used the pronoun it (or an entry for it) instead. – Jason Bassford Feb 8 at 0:54
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    @Jason: I assume that what is in the public database is the record of the car's sale, and not the actual car. – Peter Shor Feb 8 at 0:55
  • @PeterShor That would be understood. This kind of non-literal language is frequently used. But look at the parenthetical information in my comment. – Jason Bassford Feb 8 at 0:57
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If the car was sold in the last week, you wouldn't see this in the public database yet.

Assuming the speaker knows that when a car is sold it doesn't turn up in the database until two weeks later, there are two contexts in which it can be uttered:

(1) the actual world

The context is that the speaker is talking about the actual world.

In this case, the past tense verb was, therefore, denotes the past time (last week) in the actual world, and you would normally have won't instead of wouldn't as follows:

If the car was sold in the last week, you won't see this in the public database yet.

But wouldn't isn't impossible, because it can convey some uncertainty that the speaker is not 100% sure about the assumption presented at the outset, or merely because the speaker doesn't want to sound too direct.

(2) a hypothetical/counterfactual world

The context is that the speaker is talking about a hypothetical world, and possibly even a counterfactual world.

In this case, the past tense verb wouldn't, therefore, denotes a hypothetical or even counterfactual world, and you would normally have had been instead of was as follows:

If the car had been sold in the last week, you wouldn't see this in the public database yet.

But was isn't impossible, because in informal speech the simple past tense in the if-clause can often represent a hypothetical/counterfactual world in the past time.

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The sentence you propose is conditional. Why it is grammatically valid can be more easily seen if we turn it in to an unconditional statement.

If the car was sold in the last week, you wouldn't see this in the public database yet.

becomes

The car was sold last week, therefore you won't see this in the public database yet.

This sentence implies there is some delay between the sale of the car and it being entered into the database. Now if someone is asking why something isn't in the database yet, the conditional reply would be:

If the car was sold last week, you would not see this in the public database yet [because there is a delay between the sale and input into the database] (i.e. it hasn't been entered yet).

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