The subjunctive preterit and conditional constructions
English grammar (See all our English grammar tips)
The subjunctive preterit and conditional constructionsWe can differentiate between various forms of the subjunctive:
• The unreal present (or modal preterit):
If she were at the park with us, she would be having a good time.
If only I didn't have so much work to do, I could go out drinking.
I wish you didn't live so far away.
• The unreal past (or past modal perfect):
If Polly had seen this mess, she would have called the police.
He wishes she hadn't left.
If only you hadn't wasted your teenage years playing video games.
I had rather he hadn't come to this meeting.
• The conditional, based in the future (were + infinitive with to, would or could):
If he were to show up, Willy would have to arrest him.
I wish she would wake up and smell the coffee. (idiom meaning 'to pay attention to what is happening')
I would if I could, but I can't so I won't.
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