Monday, June 28, 2010

Type III Conditionals

I used to teach English as a Second Language (ESL).  I started as a Teaching Assistant at the University of Pittsburgh a couple of decades ago, and I just loved it.  You might think that teaching wouldn't suit me as I'm a bit of an introvert (OK, more than a bit) and have social issues.  However, teaching is different.  It has a defined role and a set of rules, and it always has me knowing more than my students!

I taught most all the levels of  Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing, the Language Lab, Grammar, and various "electives," if not at the ELI at Pitt then at the ELP at Penn or at the ELC at Drexel.  (ELI/P/C = English Language Institute/Programs/Center.)

Though I haven't taught in a classroom in 14 years -- a concept that is making me feel both old and useless -- I have put some of that experience to use overseeing my children's homework or projects or in aspects of my volunteer work. Of all the skills taught, though, the one that I still use the most is Grammar.  I drive my poor Girl Scouts (and their parents) crazy insisting on so-and-so and I, not me and so-and-so.  (They're now so sensitive in front of me that they hyper-correct and use I when they should use me!!)  Despite their hypersensitivity, I'm considering eradicating incorrect past participles next: I would have went... or I had saw her... or the double whammy of I could of went...

Tonight as I checked the date for something or other, I noticed that tomorrow marks my friend's son's 7-month birthday.  I thought to myself, "He would have been 7 months old tomorrow," and it hit me afresh that this sweet child is not here to celebrate that milestone with his parents.  He would have been 7 months old tomorrow if he had lived.  And my heart broke again.

To cite grammarians:  Type III Conditional sentences (also called contrary-to-fact past conditional sentences) refer to situations that are contrary-to-fact in the past.  An action could have happened in the past if a certain condition had been fulfilled, but it wasn't.  The situation was different; we just imagine what would have happened if the situation had been fulfilled.

English gives us a way to talk about it.  I don't believe there's a way to "get over it."  And I will never forget Matthew; he touched my heart and changed my life.

1 comment:

Lori said...


Wish I could say more...but tears make it hard to type.