Learn English – Tense agreement: If I have a chance… I would


Here is the example sentence my Japanese teacher who teaches English gave to her students:

  1. If I have a chance to visit… I would like to visit…

This immediately struck me as odd. My instinct is to make both verbs past tense and say:

  1. If I had the chance to visit… I would visit…

Then you have a conditional using the unreal past to describe a hypothetical situation.

Now, I assume the "would like to" is an attempt to make "want to" more formal. But my brain just doesn't like the present tense "have" and the past tense "would" put together.

My question is, is the first example sentence grammatical? And if it is grammatical, is the second sentence just more idiomatic?

Best Answer

I think I have an answer for my own question. While doing some digging for an hour or so, I found this explanation of the second conditional on The Writing Center website

Second conditional: “Unreal and unlikely”
This conditional deals with situations in the present and future that are both unreal and unlikely. The situation we are describing hasn’t happened yet, and we really can’t imagine it happening very easily.

Later the website says

Notice that the verb “stuck” is in the past tense. Using the past tense verb shows two things:
+ it hasn’t happened yet (it’s unreal)
+ you don’t really believe it will happen (it’s unlikely)

Because this sentence is talking about a hypothetical trip to visit a foreign country, it makes perfect sense to use the second conditional. And therefore the verb "had" must be used instead of "have."