IF clauses and VERB choices

It can be tricky to choose the correct verbs when an IF clause is involved.  Take a look at this sentence that appeared in a recent article about the possibility of shutting down Birmingham's Cooper Green Hospital:

If the hospital shut down, he said, patients will avoid getting care until they are really sick.

 The writer of this sentence needed to decide whether the IF part of the sentence was supposed to describe something factual (IF the  hospital SHUTS down….) or a more hypothetical situation (IF the hospital SHUT down….) The verbs in the next part of this sentence (either WILL or WOULD and ARE or WERE) depend on that decision.  There are two correct ways to word this sentence, but the parts are not interchangeable.  It should read one of these two ways:

If the hospital shuts down, he said, patients will avoid getting care until they are really sick.

If the hospital (were to) shut down, he said, patients would avoid getting care until they were really sick.

 


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One Response to “IF clauses and VERB choices”

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful post!

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