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Suppose A, B and C plan to meet at a place. A and B reach the place in time. C calls one of them to say that he'll be late, because he left just five minutes ago.

A to B:

  1. A: If he had left at least half an hour ago, he would be here now!

Q: I know the above sentence is called a mixed conditional. But do native speakers use simple past tense instead of past perfect in the If-clause of such a conditional sentence where the context makes it clear that the If-clause is talking about a past counterfactual situation? Like this:

  1. If he left at least half an hour ago, he would be here now! (still implying that C did not leave at the said time)

Note: Sentence (2) is not a second conditional.

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  • You really wanna know what native speakers do? Be careful what you ask for. It's not pretty. Oct 30 '20 at 17:15
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If he had left half an hour ago ...

This means that I know for a fact that he did not leave half-an-hour ago. In other words it translates to:

If he had decided to leave half an hour ago (but he didn't) ... then he would be here.


If he left half an hour ago ...

This means that I allow the fact that he may have left half-an-hour ago.

If it is true that he left half an hour ago ... then he should be here. (maybe we just haven't met up with him yet)

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  • If it is true that he left half an hour ago...----But the context says otherwise. A and B both know for a fact that C left only five minutes ago.
    – Mr. X
    Oct 30 '20 at 17:46
  • @Mr. X - Correct and therefore you cannot use sentence 2 in this context. Oct 30 '20 at 17:58

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