Conditionals - a UsingEng.com page

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riverkid

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Conditionals - Glossary Definition - UsingEnglish.com


ii) Second Third Mixed Conditionals
If + Past Simple, + Would have + Past Participle

1/ To avoid the illogicality of saying 'If I had been you', which means that I was not you on that occasion, but could be in the future, which is, of course, impossible.

eg:If I were you, I wouldn't have done that.

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I came across this on a page about conditionals.

Does 'if I had been you' have to entail that "I" 'could be you in the future'. I don't think so.

What's illogical about saying, "if I had been you", meaning only at the time of the particular situation. Counterfactuals are often, by their nature, both illogical and impossible. Does changing to "If I were you" make it any less impossible. Again, I don't think so.
 

Horsa

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I'm with you on this one.

I tend to think about it differently though. The past is used to express unreality in the present e.g. your example 'If I were ...' So if I want to express unreality in the past, I have a problem - the verb needs to be a past form for two reasons 1) unreality 2) it happened in the past. If I use a simple past form, I can only express one of these. So I tell my students that they need to use a 'double' past tense or as it it better known the past perfect, which when restricted to time refers to the past of the past. This may sound confusing here but my students find this easy to understand.
 

abra

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Hello :)
'double past' - a witty idea!
But would you actually say 'If I'd been you, I wouldn't have done that'?
 

riverkid

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Hello :)
'double past' - a witty idea!
But would you actually say 'If I'd been you, I wouldn't have done that'?

Absolutely, Abra.

Results 1 - 10 of about 69,900 English pages for "If I had been you".

Results 1 - 10 of about 32,400 English pages for "If I'd been you".

And likely as common though it won't show hits on google because of the spelling, is,

If Ida been you, I'da smacked him upside the head.

AND

If I'd've been you, I'd've married the gal.
 
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Horsa

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I'have no problem at all saying it. An alternative might be If I'd been in your shoes (or place), I'd have ...
 

abra

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Nov 9, 2007
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English Teacher
Thanks, experts!
Hope I won't have problems using it either...
 
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