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Is there any case in English were a future condition is represented with past tense?

E.g. "If I saw you tomorrow, I will do ..."

In some languages, it casts more doubt for the condition to happen, i.e. says the condition is very hypothetical. In other words, it means "I know I won't see him, but if I see him, which I know I won't, then I will..."

Do we have any such thing in English?

============ Update: ==========

I am trying to find the equivalent grammar of something in my mother tongue. In a transliterated version, when we say:

"If he agrees on the price, I [will] give him a discount": It means this is a rule, i.e. agreeing on the price = receiving a discount.

But when we say:

"If he agreed on the price, I [will] give him a discount":

It strongly implies that there is a specific time frame in the future, where the if clause will become a matter of past by then = "The moment that the guys have agreed on the price and I can make an action, I will apply the rule".

In other words, this is a way to strongly emphasise on the time of decision in the future, where all the unknown conditions have been cleared. The context is around that specific moment.

Do we have any equivalent thing in English?

For example, is this correct (and mean what I explained)?

"We will meet the guys at 10pm tomorrow. They will inspect our car and probably give us an offer. Once they make/made (?) their decision, if they [had] agreed (?) on my price without haggling, I will definitely give them some discount to encourage further trade with them".

Is that correct? More importantly, does this in English also have that sort of emphasising on the time of action?

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  • This is easily answered in any reference book. We do not answer "Which one is correct?" questions here because they are considered mindless proofreading. Please present your research, but this is an incredibly basic matter that should turn up instantaneously. Please consider taking such trivial questions to our sister site for English Language Learners, but understand that they too have their research requirements. – tchrist Feb 14 at 21:39
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    @Ali can you clarify whether the construction you are looking for must have a will in the then-part (like in the example you provided)? Or is the appearance of will optional, as long as the if-part contains a 'past tense expression a future condition? – linguisticturn Feb 14 at 22:48
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    @Ali To use your example: if it is not unlikely that they will in fact agree, the correct construction is [A] if they agree on my price without haggling, I will definitely give them…. If it is very possible they will not agree, then we use [B] if they agreed on my price without haggling, I would definitely give them… – linguisticturn Feb 15 at 20:00
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    @Ali It is true that [B] seems to have another possible reading: an open conditional about the past. Normally the context removes the ambiguity. If the context doesn't help, this ambiguity cannot be resolved by just modifying tenses and modality (CGEL, p.754); you need to use things like adjuncts of time (tommorow, yesterday, last week, next week, etc.). – linguisticturn Feb 15 at 20:00
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    @Ali There is also a doubly remote construction, but it is rare: [C] if they had agreed on my price tomorrow without haggling, I would have definitely given them… Here I added a time adjunct to remove the ambiguity I mentioned above and which also exists here. But when using the doubly remote construction with future time, the meaning is counterfactual: [C] implies they will not, in fact, agree on my price. – linguisticturn Feb 15 at 20:08
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Yes, the past tense (the preterite) is used in this way in English also. When used in such a way, it is said to express modal remoteness.

Discussion

Here is an example (CGEL, p.85):

[29]  ii  If he took the later plane tonight he wouldn't have to rush.

CGEL then compares it to

[30]  ii  If he takes the later plane tonight he won't have to rush.

The difference between [29ii] and [30ii], however, is not one of time: in both cases I'm talking about future time. They belong to two different kinds of conditional construction which we call remote and open: [30ii] presents his taking the later plane tonight as an open possibility, whereas [29ii] presents it as a more remote one. Such a difference belongs to the area of meaning called modality, so that we speak of the preterite here as expressing modal remoteness.

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  • No, he wants an unreal past tense in the protasis to combine a will future in the apodosis. That is not what you have. – tchrist Feb 14 at 22:29
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    @tchrist Are you saying this because the OP has a will in the example? If so, I'm not sure that the OP meant that example to be so restrictive. All they actually wrote was that they want 'a future condition is represented with past tense', just as in [29]. – linguisticturn Feb 14 at 22:34
  • He asks for a will in the "then" part to combine with an unreal past. That does not work, although it does combine with a real past. It is always possible that he is really asking a different question than the one he wrote; this happens a lot. :/ – tchrist Feb 14 at 22:39
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    @tchrist I certainly agree that you can't have a preterite in the protasis and a will in apodosis… but I am still not sure why you are so sure that OP insists on that combination. Yes, there is a will in the example the OP provided, but I take that to have been merely an example. Again, what OP actually said in words is 'a future condition is represented with past tense', with no mention of will. – linguisticturn Feb 14 at 22:46
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    @Ali Not especially, I'm afraid. We do use the English past tense to emphasize the hypothetical, but that means you will not be able to use will, which is the present-tense inflection of that verb; instead you need would in the past tense. – tchrist Feb 16 at 17:24
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Using will in the apodosis
normally requires a real protasis,
not an unreal protasis

SUMMARY: To use will in the "then" part, you cannot have a hypothetical in the "if" part.


Consider these possibilities, all grammatical but none what you say you want to do. Please pay special attention to the combinations in which the set-in-bold word will occurs: a present-tense will in the "then" part always means that you had reals in the "if" part, never unreals.

These are numbers 6, 12, 13, 14, and 15 below. In contrast, the unreals that take past-tense would in the "then" part are in 16, 17, and 19. Will is never hypothetical. Examples 19 and 20 are a different kind of will because it appears in the "if" part with a deontic sense of permission.

  1. If he leaves me half of his lunch, then I have something to eat.
  2. If he does leave me half of his lunch, then I do have something to eat.
  3. If he left me half of his lunch, then he was not very hungry.
  4. If he did leave me half of his lunch, then he was not very hungry.
  5. If he has left me half of his lunch, then he was not very hungry.
  6. If he has left me half of his lunch, then he will not have been very hungry.
  7. If he left me half of his lunch, then I have something to eat.
  8. If he did leave me half of his lunch, then I have something to eat.
  9. If he left me half of his lunch, then I had something to eat.
  10. If he did leave me half of his lunch, then I had something to eat.
  11. If he left me half of his lunch, then I did have something to eat.
  12. If he leaves me half of his lunch, then I will have something to eat.
  13. If he does leave me half of his lunch, then I will have something to eat.
  14. If he left me half of his lunch, then I will have something to eat.
  15. If he did leave me half of his lunch, then I will have something to eat.
  16. If he left me half of his lunch, then I would have something to eat.
  17. If he were to leave me half of his lunch, then I would have something to eat.
  18. If he were to have left me half of his lunch, then I would have had something to eat.
  19. If he will leave me half of his lunch, then I will have something to eat.
  20. If he will have left me half of his lunch, then I will have something to eat.

Notice where there are bold instances of will above. When they are in the "then" part, you know that the "if" part cannot have been unreal, cannot have been “hypothetical”; it must have been a real present or a real past in the “if” — or in the final and rather rare cases, a deontic will in the "if".

That's why this is not grammatical:

  1. ❌ If only he had left me half his lunch, I ❌ will have something to eat.

So the answer is no, you cannot do what you say you want to do: you do not get to use will with an unreal past as you seem to desire. You may only use will in the apodosis if there is a real protasis, not an unreal protasis.

If you have an unreal protasis, you have to use would, the past tense of will, in the apodosis. That’s because you have to backshift present-tense will into past-tense would there to make it line up and be unreal.

Another poster has suggested that you may not have asked what you wanted to know. If so, then please do not be surprised that I will not have attempted to answer something you will not have written. :)

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