To the prompt "What historical moment would you like to have participated in?", my ESL student chose a Queen Live Aid concert, saying:

I’m a huge fan of Queen and Freddie Mercury so I think that I would totally cry all concert long. When the piano [to start] playing Bohemian Rhapsody, I would get goosebumps.

Since English doesn't seem to have a pure subjunctive form, I can't seem to find a solution to the verb 'to start'. I've asked around and got too many different answers.

Are any of these correct?

  1. When the piano starts, I would get goosebumps.
  2. When the piano would start, I would get goosebumps.
  3. When the piano started, I would get goosebumps.
  4. As soon as the piano started, I would get goosebumps.
  • 1
    Since this is imaginary context, use imaginary grammar. I.e, if you're making it up the way you like, use whatever grammar you like. Sep 23 at 20:57
  • Isn't there something to be said about what sounds natural to the ears, though?
    – Ao Lin
    Sep 23 at 22:27
  • If you're writing, the ears are not involved. Sep 23 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


Either (3) or (4) would be fine.

Starts doesn't go with would cry in the previous sentence. Would start sounds like a habitual action.

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