Post by Yurui Liu
I forgot to put "without an elevator" there. So the whole sentence
should be "If there were a 20-story office building without an
elevator, those whose office was on the 18th floor would climb
many steps each day."
Would you say "was" above is indicative?
You need FIRST to understand the principles, THEN build the sentence.
There are DIFFERENT WAYS of expressing a conditional in English depending
on whether the situation is:-
A true/likely/factual or
A - the likely one - is constructed with the present simple and the future.
If we have the money, we will buy some sandwiches.
B - unlikely - If we had the money we would buy a yacht.
If your first language is Spanish or Italian or French or German,
then you will know that here "had" is subjunctive/conjunctive
If your first language is (say) from Asia, it is considered far too
difficult to teach you all about the subjunctive when it is
easier just to call "had" the past tense because most forms of the
subjunctive for these sentences are identical with those of the past.
If I had the money, I would...
If you had the money, you would...
If he had the money, he would...
If we had the money, we would...
If they had the money, they would...
The difficulty comes with "was" and "were" because in this instance
the subjunctive and the past are different.
Strictly speaking, you should say
"If I were...
"If there were...
but this is different from the past tense with "was"
so it is just referred to as an "exception"
The most direct thing to say about your sentence is that
"were" is CORRECT and "was" is WRONG.
However some people use this form, and it is tolerated
to some extent.
I appreciate that Mandarin/Simplified Text is not exactly
appropriate for an answer here, but my Mandarin grammar book
(Yip Po-Ching and Don Rimmington) does not seem to cover
I then searched on Baidu - which again is not entirely
appropriate for here. The example that I can understand
does not seem to make any change for the counterfactual.
"If I were you, I would study more.
To me the literal translation of the first half is "If I am you"
One poster writes "The conditional sentences in Chinese
are simpler than in English"
So there are two hurdles to understanding
1 True/likely/factual uses a different set of tenses
2 The subjunctive is a difficult concept to get
across to those without subjunctive in their own
first language, and the easy way is to call it a past
tense and to declare the "were instead of was" situation to be