Last week I was teaching my FCE students about tense patterns to express hypothetical meaning and I created this completely unplanned diagram to try to get across the only half-remembered explanations in Lewis’ book about how the past simple, past perfect and ‘would’ really work. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy the book here to be able to quote anything from the relevant sections for those of you who are unfamiliar with it. The quality of the picture isn’t great either, but hopefully you can see enough to get the idea.
The idea is that you start from now/real/present simple, and remove yourself one step away either in time (present -> past), or in imagination (real -> imagined) by using the past simple. You can also remove yourself one step in imagination (real -> imagined) by using ‘would’. To remove yourself two steps away, you use ‘past perfect’, i.e. two steps back in time, or one step in imagination + one step in time.
It’s not the best diagram ever produced, but the students seemed to understand a little. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have included ‘future’ on it, and I should most certainly have planned the visualisation and the example sentences before the lesson!
Have you ever tried to visualise Lewis’ description? How did/would you do it?