If + Simple Past
Strangely, in English, if+past refers to the present, in a hypothetical situation. In these cases, it’s usually followed by a clause containing ‘would’:
If I had enough money, I would buy a big house.
I would buy a big house if I had enough money.
Note that you can construct the sentence either way, but if the ‘if’ goes second, we omit the comma (,).
This can also be done with ‘could’, indicating possibility:
If we won the lottery, we could buy a Ferrari.
We could buy a Ferrari if we won the lottery.
Be careful not to mix up your tenses!
If we win the lottery, we would go on holiday.
If we won the lottery, we would go on holiday.
If+past, would do/would do if+past.
If+past, could do/could do if+past.
Did you know?
These kinds of discourse markers are used frequently in movies and books. For example, in ‘What Women Want’, a movie with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.
– “That’s it?”
– “I don’t want that to be it. I don’t want that to be it at all.”
– “Then don’t let a little thing like me firing you stand in your way. I don’t know what to react to first. Hey, news flash – I took the wrong road. What kind of knight in shining armor would I be if the man I love needed rescuing and I just let him walk out my door?”
– “My hero.”
So, if you fired the person you loved, would they still love you? Who knows! But at least you’ll be able to ask them!