Date: Thu, 12 Oct 1995 02:19:42 CDT


Subject: Re: If I was

If you look at old, really old, grammar books, you'll see rules saying

that the proper past perfect subjunctive is

"If I had been more careful, ... I wouldn't have muddied the waters..."

That is, pluperfect subjunctive in the if-clause and conditional in the

main clause.

In contemporary Spanish the conditional form (habria tenido mas cuidado; 2

accent marks needed) has replaced the earlier pluperfect (hubiera / hubiese

tenido...). It seems to me that there is an increase in the use of the

conditional form in both clauses in English (echoing what has already

happened in Spanish, with no obvious causality). If you want to do an

exercise in discovering the extent to which subjunctive forms survive

in English, get a Spanish review grammar and translate the examples into

English. German would work too, of course. A thread on this topic

wormed its way through a few knots on ads-l maybe a couple of years ago, but

I don't think many people had much to say, i.e., much that comes from

knowledge of what the old books say.