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In this link, Past Unreal Conditional, user l'électeur has given an answer pointing to the tense issues in the original sentence given in the question, stating that ていた needs to be used instead of た:

あのとき右に曲がれば、どうなっただろう。

If I had turned right back then, I wonder what would have happened.

l'électeur has given the following corrected sentences:

「あのとき右に曲がっていたのなら(ば)、どうなっていた(の)だろう(or のであろう)。」

or

「あのとき右に曲がっていれば(or いたら)、どうなっていた(の)だろう(or のであろう)。」

However, I would like to know why exactly ていた and not just た must be used for both 曲がる and なる. I am aware that ていた expresses a state while た focuses on the action, but I simply cannot comprehend why one would choose to focus on "the state of turning right" rather than regretting his decision of not "taking the action of turning right".

I have done some research on these tenses myself, and one source I have found is the following question, which I have derived the "state" vs "action" idea from:

What is the difference between using ている、ていた、た in relative clauses?

  • I never meant to imply that 「曲がっていた」 meant "was turning". I meant to say that it meant "had turned". That is how the pluperfect is formed in Japanese and, incidentally, that is how the past progressive is also formed. It is a grammar point that seems to really confuse the learner. From the context, though, you will always know which tense we meant to use. – l'électeur Jan 30 '16 at 14:53
  • @l'électeur Ah, my apologies, I wasn't trying to misquote you, if I did. Anyways, I think I see it now. Will attempt to answer. – rhyaeris Jan 30 '16 at 14:59
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I'm going to take a shot at answering this, after l'électeur helped me straighten out some things:

あのとき右に曲がれば、どうなっただろう。

would probably be fitting for "If I turned right back then, I wonder what events would have taken place." This sentence seems to emphasise the action of turning, and the process of resulting actions taking place.

あのとき右に曲がっていたのなら(ば)、どうなっていた(の)だろう。

would probably be fitting for "If I had turned right back then, I wonder what would have happened." This sentence seems to emphasise the state of "had turned", and the state of affairs that would have resulted.

  • "If I had turned right back then" and "Had I turned right back then" sound the same to me. I think the difference is between "If I turned right back then" (first sentence), and "If I had turned right back then" (second sentence). In English I would argue that the first sentence is just as ropey as it is in Japanese. – user3856370 Jan 30 '16 at 15:59
  • @user3856370 I see, good point - will modify. Thanks! – rhyaeris Jan 31 '16 at 1:40

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