Sitting for a taped interview with Steve Murphy, the anchor for CTV Halifax, Mr. Dion was asked: "If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper hasn't done?"
Mr. Dion replied: "If I had been prime minister 2½ years ago?"
Mr. Murphy replied: "If you were the prime minister right now."
Mr. Murphy repeated the question again. Mr. Dion asked: "If I was prime minister starting when? Today?"
D: Sure, Dion could have handled his response better.
But the question was ambiguous.
Verb tense for hypothetical situations is tricky!
For present unreal events, we put the verb in the condition clause one step back — into the past:
- If the Bulls won another championship, Roberto would drive into Chicago for the celebration.
- I wish I had tickets.
- If they were available anywhere, I would pay any price for them.
- If he were a good friend, he would buy them for me....
For past unreal events — things that didn't happen, but we can imagine — we put the verb in the condition clause a further step back — into the past perfect:
- If the Pacers had won, Aunt Glad would have been rich.
- If she had bet that much money on the Bulls, she and Uncle Chester could have retired.
- I wish I had lived in Los Angeles when the Lakers had Magic Johnson.
- If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake.
D: I assume Dion understood the rule that generally verb tenses must agree.
Typically, if one begins in past tense then one stays in past tense.
Easy, right? [=