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Should it be past tense all throughout when writing hypothetical sentences?

If I were you, I wouldn’t listen to people who were saying bad things about me.

If I could interview Angelina, I would ask where she currently lived. (I find it a bit odd)

Or are these also acceptable?

If I were you, I wouldn’t listen to people who are saying bad things about me.

If I could interview Angelina, I would ask where she currently lives.

  • Many people will tell you that the present tense is nowadays possible. But personally it doesn't sound right to my ear. – WS2 Feb 21 at 19:55
  • So are you someone who would use past tense all thorughout, or are you embracing tense flexibility? – Curious Lingo Feb 21 at 19:58
  • In the examples you have given I would always use the past tense following the conditional. – WS2 Feb 21 at 20:53
  • I think that it would make for very awkward phrases – Lucio Tanzini Feb 21 at 21:18
  • @LucioTanzini For example? – WS2 Feb 22 at 7:26
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No you should not. You should say:

If I were you, I wouldn’t listen to people who say bad things about me.

If I could interview Angelina, I would ask her where she currently lives.

You should think of the past tense, in a second conditional clause, as a non temporal tense, its purpose is to convey the hypotetical nature of the sentence. Indeed many languages, such as my native language, italian, do have separated tenses for hypotetical use only and english used to possess it as well: "were" is actually a trace of a now gone conditional tense.

Consider this example:

If I had known you were going out with the same guys that had bullied you, I wouldn't have let you out.

If we had to conjugate a verb that is expressing an action that takes place in the same time of the hypothesis according to the tense that you are using in the hypothesis, we wouldn't be able to express the fact that the bullies had already bullied you at the time you went out with them.

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