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I was having a discussion with a Russian speaker, and he told me it's acceptable to use the present tense after a conditional clause with "eсли бы"

I thought that whenever you used если бы, in the next clause you had to use the past tense and the бы to show the irreal state of things.

From what I understand, he's trying to tell me that to say something like: "Если бы я его увидел, я рад." But I could've sworn that the only correct way to say this would've been "Если бы я его увидел, я был бы рад." He insisted that both are correct.

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He's wrong. Following a conditional with a present-tense clause just isn't a thing. Not even colloquial, not even "incorrect but common", quite the contrary, I can't imagine it even occurring to anyone to do that, however little attention to their syntax they were paying.

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  • Thanks, that's what I thought. You don't happen to have some source for this, something I could show him? Is there any Académie française for the Russian language? Mar 19 '17 at 22:08
  • @MichaelJones I don't think I do. It's just too outlandish to have to be specifically refuted by some language authority in the first place. Mar 19 '17 at 22:09
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    Если бы мои родители могли предвидеть, во что выльется легкомысленный шаг отца, не бывать бы мне на тех футбольных матчах. [Е. Рубин. Пан или пропал. Жизнеописание (1999-2000)] Infinitives are possible.
    – V.V.
    Mar 20 '17 at 4:42
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Sometimes people in a live speech just omit "был бы", so it might look like a present tense (as you should know null verb in Russian usually stands for present tense). But it's really just an elliptical construct. Fro example, "Если бы я это сделал, то мне [был бы] конец". That's not a present tense but simply a way to eat out a few words in a sentence.

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It would have been very convenient to consider that we always have the past tense in both clauses in case of unreal condition. And it is correct in most cases. And you are right that there cannot be a present tense. But Russian is a tricky language sometimes and there can be other combinations. So we can't say that the past tense is mandatory. Here are several examples where either the if - clause or the main clause do not correspond the usual standard.

1.Я бы вас бросил, если бы не ваш идиотизм. 2.Если б хоть ненадолго заставить его замолчать, можно было бы собраться с мыслями. 3.Если бы мои родители могли предвидеть, во что выльется легкомысленный шаг отца, не бывать бы мне на тех футбольных матчах. [Е. Рубин. Пан или пропал. Жизнеописание (1999-2000)] 4. Всё равно, если бы и догнала, при отце он со мной говорить не будет…

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  • Было бы очень удобно --> "It would have been very convenient", not "...comfortable".
    – KCd
    Mar 21 '17 at 21:50
  • OK, I meant "feel comfortable "
    – V.V.
    Mar 22 '17 at 4:32

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