A variation of conditionals?


I have found these sentences, "If I were you, I would have enjoyed my vacation.", "If I were you, I would have explained what happened." So I think the structure of "If I were...., I would have p.p..." is also possible. Do you agree with the grammar? I really hope to hear from you again. Thank you so much as usual.

asked Oct 09 '12 at 10:17 Hans Contributor

3 answers


HsKyH7, neither of these two sentences is correct. 


"If I were . . ." expresses an imagined present, "if I had been . . .", an imagined past.


Here are your options:


If I were you, I would explain what happened.

If I had been you, I would have explained what happened.

link answered Oct 09 '12 at 12:34 Peter Guess Expert

I'm sorry, Peter, but my dictionary states that Were is the past subjunctive of Be. Does that not mean that "If I were you" expresses an imagined past?

mysticeteOct 09 '12 at 13:52

I'll stick with what I said above: ' "If I were . . ." expresses an imagined present . . .'

Peter GuessOct 09 '12 at 15:25

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First, to explain what Peter meant, and Mysticete disagreed with, about "If I were ..."


As Mysticete said, normally "were" is the past tense subjunctive of the verb "to be". However, when "were" follows if, as if, wish, or suppose, it becomes a fixed expression that describes, as Peter said, the imagined present.


When "were" appears in the "if" clause, the sentence is always a Present Unreal Conditional and the result clause should always use would + present tense verb.


If the result clause describes something in the past -- would + have + past participle -- then we have a Past Unreal Conditional, and the if clause should always use the past perfect -- for example, had been.


To be grammatically correct, we cannot mix and match the tenses. Remember, what we see and hear is not always correct.


I hope this helps.  

link answered Oct 09 '12 at 14:38 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Thanks, Jeff ;-)

Peter GuessOct 09 '12 at 15:19

Cool. Thanks for the explanation, Jeff. Anywhere else I can read about this?

mysticeteOct 10 '12 at 00:11

Excuse me, I intended, "anywhere else I can read more about this?" It had been my impression that it is only when Were is used following words such as If and Wish that it is past subjunctive, and in most cases Were is the 2nd person singular past tense or plural past tense of Be. As in "You were real, once." and "There were three red elephants dancing here only yesterday!"

mysticeteOct 10 '12 at 00:20

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Yes. In these cases "were" is a subjunctive form (indicating an imaginary or unreal state) of the word "be."  Also possible is "If she/he/it were here, then..." or "I wish she/he/it were..."


Ordinarily, the first person singular past tense form of the word "be" is "was." As in, "I was just leaving." 

link answered Oct 09 '12 at 10:32 mysticete Contributor

Thank you and my question is whether S + were / was...., S' + would / could, etc have p.p...is even acceptable nowadays. Many people say it is not right but we can see and find some examples written like that. What do you think?

HansOct 09 '12 at 10:36

It is difficult to understand your meaning when you use p.p. -- do you mean present participle, past participle, present perfect, or past perfect?

Jeff PribylOct 09 '12 at 14:40

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