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I was wondering all the time, how I can express just 'past' with 'if' in English?

And finally I found one sentence,

  • if you watched and listened to the previous podcast, you'll find that our favorite teams were Arsenal and Manchester United.

I don't think this is a 'if + past tense and would/could/should sentence. this is talking about just the real past with 'if', not imagination and unreal. this is not fixed sentences such as 'past tense + would/should/could or had p.p + would/should/could have p.p.

in common sense, if you use 'if + past tense', the following sentence should be with would/could/should and it also means unreal and a rare possibility. However, the above sentence just indicates the incident in the past with 'if'

LSS, Here is my question. If I want to talk about just the past like the above sentence with 'if', which tense should I use for the following sentence? the above sentence uses 'will' which I guess makes a difference with 'would' (unreal conditional) and it also uses 'were'. Can I just use 'are' instead? does this make a difference?

I also, while searching, found out 'Past real conditional' which says 'if past tense + simple past tense', but I don't think this explains my question.

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"Past real condition" is a good way to describe this. The past indicative (normal) tense can indeed be used in an if clause, as opposed to a past subjunctive (hypothetical) tense; both tenses have the same form except for was/were.

As to what tense should be used in the main clause, it could be be any tense depending on context, though would/could and other typically subjunctive verbs are probably less likely.

If you saw the murderer, you know he was tall.

If you saw the murderer, you will be able to identify him.

If you saw the murderer, please tell us who he is.

If you saw the murderer, why didn't you tell us?

The following examples would be subjunctives, so the conditions would be unreal/hypothetical:

If you saw the murderer, you would know he was tall (but apparently you don't know, so you didn't see him).

If you saw the murderer, you could identify him (but it seems you cannot, so you didn't see him).

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  • you are the best!!. I have another sentence too which is quite confusing whether this is just the past indicative sentence or the subjunctive sentence. * Even if Tottenham were ahead of Arsenal all through the season, there'll be one day where they would slip up. I'm confused because of the 'there will be'. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 1:26
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    @SeongEunBae: Yeah, were can be subjunctive or indicative in this case, because indicative plural of the past simple is also were (subjunctive past is always were). But this sentence is, in my opinion, not very well written (though I would be surprised to find this in the sports section of a newspaper). The word would ensures that it must be read as hypothetical. The verb will is ugly here; the author should not have used it. He might have written instead, "Even if Tottenham were ahead of Arsenal all through the season, one day they would slip up." Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 2:24
  • thank you so much :) it was a comment from his speech though. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 2:30
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    But it depends on what the writer wants to say, exactly. If he really didn't mean to use a hypothetical condition, but rather a future condition, he could have written this: "Even if Tottenham stays ahead of Arsenal all through the season, there will be one day where they slip up." If he had wanted to use a different subjunctive construction, one expressing a possibility, he could have written this: "Even if Tottenham should stay ahead of Arsenal all through the season, there could be one day where they slipped up." But I'm really not exactly sure whether he means stay. Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 2:31
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    @SeongEunBae Ah, OK, if it was a speech, I suppose a sloppy construction can be forgiven! Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 2:31

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