Perhaps you thought that after Student Stumper 46, I’d have nothing else to say about as if and as though. On the contrary, I’m still thinking about this grammar structure!
First of all, some of you might appreciate a short worksheet to review the grammar with students. Check out the as-if-as-though_handout. It’s formatted to work in a private lesson or group setting. I felt it best to separate real and unreal statements. This makes the grammar easier to internalize. However, the final recommendation is to push students away from controlled practice and elicit a mix of real and unreal statements prompted by other photos.
Also, I’ve been thinking about the use of the subjunctive when the main clause uses a present tense. It seems simple enough to shift back to the past perfect when the main clause uses the simple past: he looked as though he had run a marathon. But what if we change “look” to “looks” in that sentence? Do we keep the past perfect “had run”? In COCA, the examples with a simple present verb in the main clause express true or likely statements. The present-present combination looks like this: it seems as if we’re making some progress. That’s easy and clear to understand, but it doesn’t answer my question about unreal statements.
After more searching, I found one example in Azar’s 3rd edition of Understanding and Using English Grammar that showed the mix of tenses: “I feel terrible. I feel as if (as though) I had been run over by a ten-ton truck” (430).
My feeling is that we may have a conflict between prescriptive and descriptive grammar. If someone complained, “I feel as if I’ve been run over by a truck,” I’d understand that they feel lousy and I’d know that they hadn’t really been run over by anything. My ears would also likely accept this variation: “I feel as if a truck just ran over me.”
But while I seem open to variation, I think it’s probably best to present and practice what’s prescribed and then note that variations will occur in conversation.
My worksheet includes one item with a present-past perfect combination. Whether you agree or disagree with my conclusions about unreal statements, the item could serve as a talking point.
Azar B. S. (1999). Understanding and using English grammar. White Plains, N.Y.: Pearson Education.
Corpus of Contemporary English (COCA). Retrieved from http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/