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If I Would Have... vs. If I Had...

Reprinted with permission by Editor Laura Lawless, http://www.elearnenglishlanguage.com/.

When talking about something that didn’t happen in the past, many English speakers use the conditional perfect (if I would have done) when they should be using the past perfect (if I had done).

For example, you find out that your brother saw a movie yesterday. You would have liked to see it too, but you hadn’t known he was going. To express this, you can use an if – then clause. The correct way to say this is with the past perfect in the “if” clause, and the conditional perfect in the “then” clause:

Correct: If I had known that you were going to the movies, [then] I would have gone too.

The conditional perfect can only go in the “then” clause — it is grammatically incorrect to use the conditional perfect in the “if” clause:

Incorrect: If I would have known that you were going to the movies, I would have gone too.

More examples:

Correct: If I had gotten paid, we could have traveled together.

Incorrect: If I would have gotten paid, we could have traveled together.

Correct: If you had asked me, I could have helped you.

Incorrect: If you would have asked me, I could have helped you.

The same mistake occurs with the verb “wish.” You can’t use the conditional perfect when wishing something had happened; you again need the past perfect.

Correct: I wish I had known.

Incorrect: I wish I would have known.

Correct: I wish you had told me.

Incorrect: I wish you would have told me.

Correct: We wish they had been honest.

Incorrect: We wish they would have been honest.

Due to the E-Newsletter's large readership, we are only able to respond to individual English usage questions if submitted through GrammarBook.com's "Grammar Blog."

Pop Quiz

Choose A or B.

1.A. If I would have known you were sick, I could have brought you some meals.
1.B. If I had known you were sick, I could have brought you some meals.

2.A. If you had explained the objective, I could have completed the assignment sooner.
2.B. If you would have explained the objective, I could have completed the assignment sooner.

3.A. I wish it would have gone differently.
3.B. I wish it had gone differently.

4.A. We wish the team had scored more goals.
4.B. We wish the team would have scored more goals.

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Personal Message to Our Readers

Fifteen months ago I sadly informed all of you of the unfortunate passing of my wife, Jane Straus, the founder of this website and author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. I received hundreds of notes of condolence from you, our loyal readers of the weekly GrammarBook.com E-Newsletter.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of messages I received. Due to the difficulty of the circumstances, I was unable to read through all of them at the time. It is only now that I have been able to return to these messages and read each one. I am deeply touched by your sincere expressions of sympathy and by the fact that so many of you would take the time to put in writing how Jane’s work had positively contributed to your life and work. These messages mean a great deal to both me and our daughter. I will keep them forever.

I would like to reassure you of my commitment to continue Jane’s legacy. In the past year, we have completely redesigned the website to keep up with the times. Also, we have been able to catch up with the backlog of questions submitted by our readers regarding grammar and punctuation. We are now able to answer your questions, especially if submitted through the Grammar Blog area of the website, in one week or less. You may have noticed that during the last year most of the E-Newsletter’s weekly Grammar Tips were ones that had been written by Jane in years past. We will soon begin including some new Grammar Tips, often inspired by questions asked by you, our readers. Later this year, we will add new quizzes to both the free and subscription areas of the site.

Finally, I want to include a note regarding advertising. Most of the content of GrammarBook.com is free. However, there are costs involved in operating a quality website. Advertising helps defray these costs. I will continue to try to keep advertising as unobtrusive and as relevant as possible, though it may occasionally involve an extra email from us during the month. I hope you understand.

Thank you so much for your support.

Sincerely yours,
Lester Kaufman

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Did you know there is a seven-letter word that contains eleven words without rearranging any of its letters? The word therein contains the following words:


Pop Quiz Answers


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