Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Will vs Would

We do use the subjunctive when we are trying to talk about something that is contrary to reality or won't actually happen. We use the future tense to talk about what will actually happen (or, at least, what we believe will actually happen). 

So, let's say I bought a lottery ticket yesterday, and I didn't win anything. I might say, "If I had won the lottery yesterday, I would have quit my job and moved to Tahiti." 

I'm using the subjunctive because I didn't actually win the lottery; therefore, I'm not actually quitting my job and moving to Tahiti - that's contrary to reality. 

Let's say I plan to buy a lottery ticket tomorrow and I don't know yet whether I will win. I might say, "If I win the lottery tomorrow, I will quit my job and move to Tahiti." 

In this case, I'm telling you what I actually plan to do, for real, if I do win the lottery. So I use future tense - this time, what I'm saying is not contrary to reality. I've described what I really will do if I win.

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