General Writing and Grammar Help/About the usage of tense.

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Question
Dear Ted,

How are you? Thank you very much for your prompt reply each time.

I would like to ask another question.

I read of a sentence: If he is not happy, he would have said something.

I think it is better to write: If he had not been happy, he would have said something.

What is your opinion?
         
Thanks!

Best Wishes,

Walden

Answer
Dear Walden:

I have missed hearing from you.

****

I read of a sentence: If he is not happy, he would have said something.

I think it is better to write: If he had not been happy, he would have said something.

What is your opinion?

**** I think this version is better:  If he WAS not happy, he would have said something.

The reason I have chosen "was," the past tense, is because his being happy [or not] happened at the same time as his saying something.  You have used the PAST PERFECT TENSE for "had not been."  That indicates that his "unhappiness" occurred previous to when he did NOT say anything.

I chose the PAST TENSE for both "actions," because I think they happened at the same time.

Walden, I know that this is confusing, and the problem is that you are using an "if" clause.  That simple two-letter word puts the entire clause into the "subjunctive mood."
When you use "if," you cannot state for certain HOW he actually felt.  You are only suggesting a "possibility."

Your suggestion, although not the best revision, is still MUCH BETTER than the original sentence you quoted.  This sentence --  If he is not happy, he would have said something. -- is completely WRONG.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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