second vs. third conditionals

‘if I were in Mexico at that time, what car would I choose as my first car?’

Why some people use second conditionals to refer to the past, instead of third conditionals? Is it gramatically OK?
Or, is it because they treat it as an imaginary situation in the present??



Hi Rickyrocky,

I understand that sentence to be a reference to the future.
Why do you think it refers to the past? Was it part of a past tense narrative?

[size=75]“Don’t take life too seriously. It’s only a temporary condition.” ~ Bill Knapp[/size]

Hi Esl Expert,

I see. I saw it written on a blog.
It goes:
‘My first car was a second hand vehicle I picked up during my university years in Melbourne, Australia. The cars are cheap over there, especially used cars, and it’s served me well during my time there. I was rather sad to see it go.
However, it does make me wonder – if I were in Malaysia at that time, what car would I choose as my first car?’

This blogger is a good writer. Yah, I understand that one doesn’t have to be a grammarian to be a good writer.
But yeah, thanks for the clarification. :wink:

Hi Rickyrocky,

In the context, it does seem clear they’re talking about the past, doesn’t it? But, in a way he does seem to be putting himself back into the past and then thinking out loud as if he were now there (which is what the case would be in a first person narrative about the past).

He’s got a couple of other oddities going on with tense choice here and there, so I would say that he probably doesn’t care very much if his grammar is a little “off” here and there. He’s just writing it the way he feels it at the moment.

[size=75]“A smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities.” ~ Herman Melville[/size]

I see… ‘which is what the case would be in a first person narrative about the past’.
That is something to think about. I didn’t know people would narrate about the past that way.

Hi Rickyrocky,

In your sentence the use of ‘were’ and ‘would’ simply refer to an imaginary/hypothetical situation suggesting that this is what he would do if he were in that situation.

It’s just the same as this kind of set up: You see something happen. Let’s say you see an accident and you see someone rushing to help the people involved. Someone standing next to you asks: Would you run to help if if you were the first person to see that?


Thanks Alan.
But if we are referring such things about the past, can we still use it this way?
Or should we use third conditionals?