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English as a Second Language/Second conditional / meaning of a sentence


QUESTION: Dear Shannon,

1. "If I were/was you, I would find out what time the last bus leaves." Here, we have a sentence in the second conditional (two clauses) so that verbs are in the past to express unreality or improbability. My question: Is the use of the verb "leaves" (present tense) grammatically correct.

2. "If I were you, I'd be grateful I had any friends at all. You should treat your fiends with more respect." I do not understand what "I had any friends at all" means. Is something wrong in the construction of this sentence?

Kind regards,
Antoine Ghannoum

ANSWER: 1. Present tense is fine here, as far as I know.  This is how we would use the 2nd conditional normally at any rate.
2. Not really.  Here we again leave out the word "that": If I were you, I would be grateful (that) I had any friends at all.  Or if rewritten more simply: "I would be grateful to have any friends at all if I were you."

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QUESTION: For sentence 2, still I don't fully grasp the meaning of "I would be grateful that I had any friends at all", knowing that both 'any' and 'at all' are used with negative sentences.

Well, a negative is rather implied here as the alternative option.  "I would be grateful that I had any friends at all" is like saying "I am surprised you have any friends.  Most people with your attitude would have no friends.  You should be thankful you have at least one or two friends."

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Shannon Cole


I can answer questions related to learning the English and Spanish language.


I have taught ESL and Spanish since 1998 at the university and middle school levels. I am a native of the U.S., and have taught in both the U.S. and Mexico.

I am owner and operator of, an online language school.

Georgia TESOL in Action (1999)

B.A. in Spanish; M.Ed. in Language Education

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