More on the Baking Cakes video

If you read the last blog abt baking cakes and saw the video the grammar purists among us may well have thrown their hands up in horror at the “conditionals”. I also reacted badly when I first started noticing this simple past use in what is effectively a third conditional, because “It isn’t the way I use it so it has to be wrong, right?” Well, no, actually, if we’re being descriptive rather than prescriptive the answer is “No.” There is a large segment of the English speaking world that uses the simple past in this way, so this has to be respected.
I also reacted badly when I first noticed the use of “would have” creeping in where I would use the simple past (We’re still in the realm of the third conditional.” One summer, in the UK, it was suddenly everywhere: on the TV, in the streets. ( It might have already arrived in the spring but living abroad means that I only tend to get back in the summer, and then I notice all kinds of novel usage.) I heard people saying things like: “If you would have told me I’d have known!” Again I would never use a conditional form where what I think I need is a subjunctive (or a past perfect doing the same job.) But this is only a matter of convention and if a large enough community wants to use the conditional to do the same job, well, who am I to protest?

It’s so easy to get fixed in our ways and think that of course we know best, but language, like so many things, is constantly in flux.

having said that I did think twice about using that particular video in class and in the end decided not to as it might have confused my poor students.

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