In my mind, "if they gave money [but they did not give money], they would be wise [but they are not]" amounts to a mixed condition in which a present state is the consequence of past action...
and "if they were giving money [but they are not giving money], they would be wise [but they are not]" amounts to a proper "contrary to fact present" condition...
I just browsed my way to your question months after you asked it and after the Spiff answered it (rather well). I just wish to point out the illogic in your square brackets â€“ why do you use the past tense [â€œbut they did not give
â€â€¦] in your first set, and the present tense in your second [â€œbut they are not giving
â€â€¦ ] even though you have the â€˜past tenseâ€™ in both of the sentences to be translated â€œif they gave
moneyâ€ and â€œif they were giving
As the Spiff points out, â€œif they gave moneyâ€ does not refer to a hypothetical past
situation (that would be â€œif they had given moneyâ€) but refers to some guysâ€™ present
situation and their present options. â€œIf they were to give money / If they gave moneyâ€ [=but they do not
!], â€œthey would be wiseâ€ (but they are not
wise - and thus fail their exams?).
Aside from the question as to whether bribery is still a politically correct option in college life, the conditional has largely replaced the subjunctive in English. There remain a few expressions like â€œIf I were youâ€ (of course Iâ€™m obviously not you = contrary-to-fact condition!). Here, incidentally, I disagree with the Spiff. Nowadays, â€œif I was you ..â€ has become more common than and just as â€˜correctâ€™ as â€œif I were you â€¦â€
In any case, the main problem
is not understanding HOW the subjunctive/ conditional functions in English but understanding WHEN Latin uses its subjunctive forms - in ways we wouldnâ€™t dream of using the subjunctive even if we still had it (e.g. as a Pavlovian reflex in most subordinate clauses). German, French, Spanish, etc, pose similar problems for English speakers.
Of course, by now you know all this.