Confusing issue




1) If you were able to meet your mother, what question would you ask?

2) If you are able to meet your mother, what question will you ask?

An adoptee is looking for her birth mother and someone asked the #1 question and I thought #2 is better because #1 implies the chance to be able to meet your mom is almost impossible. So I think that the #2 sounds better and polite. What do you native English speakers think?






a : I agree with you.

b : I, in contrast, see no significant difference in politeness.

I also do not think the use of the second conditional implies that its condition is almost impossible to satisfy. Rather, it just means the speaker is thinking in theoretical terms, whether the condition is satisfied or not.


I have asked the question already and I got two different answers and I would like you to elaborate on this issue if you do not mind. And what I cannot understand is b's relpy so could you tell me what it means? 


Thank you.


P.S "Also" can be used with "not'?

edited Apr 15 '13 at 05:26 Hans Contributor

1 answer


I will try to elaborate on answer “b” to help you understand.  A common phrase using the conditional “were” is, “If I were you…”  In this example, the condition is impossible.  I can never be you.  However, using the conditional doesn’t always mean that the condition is impossible or even improbable. 


In your example, the second sentence does show more probability than the first.  But they both still show that there is a condition to be met.  Are you able to meet her or not?  “In theoretical terms” means that the probability is unknown.  You might have a guess about the result, but until the theory is tested, you don't really know - just like a scientific theory.  Using “are” instead implies that the probability is known.  The person has some control over the result.  I would use sentence #2 if there was a possible scheduling problem. 


The writer of answer “b” does not agree with answer “a” on two points.  “I see no…” is the same as “I do not see… .”  The second sentence then continues with “I also do not think.”  One might write, “Also, I do not think.”

link comment answered Apr 15 '13 at 17:45 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

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