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Jang Joonggun
if you had a couple of minutes A: Hi, professor Anderson.. wondering if you had a couple of minutes... B: Of course Paula. ...from a TOEFL text book Why does she say 'if you had'? I think 'if you have' is proper because it's not the subjunctive mood. Am I right?
Aug 18, 2018 4:14 AM
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Answers · 13
The tense is correct. As Paula is a student speaking to a professor, she is being quite tentative and polite. One of the ways that we do this is by 'distancing'. A very common way to make requests - especially when speaking to superiors - is to begin with "I was wondering if/whether....". The truncated phrase '...wondering if ...' is actually an abbreviation if I WAS wondering, so the correct form to follow this is the past tense: "I was wondering if you had ..." "I was wondering if you could ... "I was wondering if you knew ... "I was wondering if you had spoken to ..." Even though we are referring to present time, the correct sequencing of tenses requires a past form. It would not be a natural for a native speaker to use a present tense in this context.
August 18, 2018
Hi Joonggun, A: Hi, [P]rofessor Anderson.. wondering if you had a couple of minutes... B: Of course[,] Paula. ...from a TOEFL [textbook] Indeed, if Paula was talking to Professor Anderson there and then, then the present tense should be used (i.e. I am wondering if you have a couple of minutes.) I am hoping that you can supply additional context. I am wondering if Paula was referring to an incident in the past when the professor could have had a few minutes to spare? Example: Hi Professor Anderson, I am wondering if you had a couple of minutes last week to look through my proposal? So, I would say that it could be right or wrong, depending on what the context is. I hope this helps.
August 18, 2018
As Su.Ki. has correctly stated, this is natural for a polite request. 1 - (direct) Do you have a couple minutes?? 2 - (less direct, more tentative) "I am wondering if you have a couple minutes?" 3 - (polite, less direct, more tentative) "I was wondering if you had a couple minutes?" For two friends (equals), 1 would be very natural. For two coworkers (equals), 2 would be very natural. For an employee and manager, 3 would be very natural.
August 18, 2018
You're right. Grammatically speaking, it should be 'if you have', as would be used in 'Do you have a minute?'. In conversational English, there exists some grammatically incorrect set phrases like these. Its possible 'had' was used instead of 'have' because the speaker thought using 'have' would have implied that she needs exactly 'a couple of minutes', when perhaps what she wishes to talk about will take longer than this. Another example of this kind of thing: 'What was your name?' = 'What is your name?'. In using 'was' here, the person is trying to keep the speech casual, and perhaps thought that using 'is' would have made the question too direct. Ultimately, you can simply disregard these usages. There is no need to adopt these incorrect phrases as the same meaning can be conveyed while still using correct grammar. I hope this helped a little!
August 18, 2018
I think you are right, but we need some to confirm that.
August 18, 2018
Jang Joonggun
Language Skills
English, Korean
Learning Language
English