tenses with the use of 'if'

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i've a question regarding the tenses when using 'if'.
i'd like to know when to use:

1) if i went there, none of these events would happen.


2) if i had gone there, none of these incidents would have happened.

Both of the sentences applied to something which wasn't happened.hence, i've been wondering when is the right time to use them.
Could you help me?



Key Member
Feb 25, 2006
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"If I went" talks about something that is unlikely to happen in the near future, or something that is not true now (in the present).

If Mike Huckabee became the next US President (but I do not believe he will)...

If aliens landed on Mount Everest (but I do not believe this is possible)...

If I had a hammer (but I don't have one)...

If I went there (but really, I don't want to go there, so it's very unlikely this will happen)...

"If I had gone" talks about something that didn't happen or wasn't true in the past.

If George W Bush had lost the last election (but he didn't)...

If Charles Dickens had finished his last book (but he died before he could finish it)...

If I had seen the other car (but I didn't)...

If I had gone there (but I didn't go there)...


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Sep 13, 2007
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Hi yoyoyo,

I would try to be more comprehensible. For your facility I inserted inn my post one each practical example with explanation in any particular case, respectively for if-sentences (present) and if-sentenced (past).

if sentences (present/future)

Compare these examples:

Tom: I think I left my lighter at your house. Have you see it?
Ann: No, but I'll look. If I find it, I'll give it to you.

In this example there is a real possibility that Ann will find the lighter. So she says: "If I find.. I'll..."

(after if we also use the simple present (I do) for the future.

It's raining. We'll get wet if we go out. (not if we will go)
Hurry up. If we don't hurry, we'll be late. (not if we won't hurry)

Ann: If I found a $500 bill on the street, I would keep it.

This is a different type of situation. Ann is not thinking about a real possibility; she is imagining the situation. So she says: "If I found... I would... ( not If I find ... I'll... )

When you imagine a future happening like this, you use a past tense form (did/came/found etc.) after if. But the meaning is not past.

What would you do if you won a million dollars?
If we didn't go to their party next week, they would be very a
Ann wouldn't lend me any money if I asked her.

if-sentences (present)

Study this example situation:

Tom wants to call Sue, but he can't because he doesn't know her telephone number.
He says:
If I knew her number, I would call her.
Tom says: If I knew her number...." This tells us that he doesn't know her number. He is imagining the situation. The real situation is that is that he doesn't know the number.

When you imagine a situation like this, you use a past tense form (I did/ I had / I knew etc.) after if. But the meaning is present, not past.

Tom would travel if he had more money. (but he doesn't have much money)
If I didn't want to go, I wouldn't. (but I want to go)
We wouldn't have any money if we didn't work. (but we work)

In if-sentences after if we use were instead of was.

If I were you, I wouldn't buy a that coat. (but I am not you)
I'd go out if it weren't raining. (but it is raining)

Do not use would in the if-part of the sentence.

If I were rich, I would buy a castle (not if I would be rich)

if-sentences (past)

Study this example situation:

Last month, Ann was sick. Tom didn't know this, and he didn't go to see her. They met again after Ann got better. Tom said:

If I had known that you were sick, I would have gone to see you.

The real situation was that Tom didn't know Ann was sick. So he says If I had known... When you are talking about the past, you use the past perfect (I had gone / I had been / I had known etc.) after if.

If I had seen you when you passed me in the street, I would have said hello (but I didn't see you)
I would have gone out if I hadn't so tired. ( but I was too tired)If he had been looking where he was going, he wouldn't have walked into the wall (but he wasn't looking)

would have (done) is the past form of would (do)

If I had gone to the party last night, I wouldn't be tired now. (I am not tired now - present)
If I had gone to the party last night, I would have seen Ann. (I didn't see Ann - past)

might have and could have are possible instead of would have.

If we'd played better, we might have won. (=perhaps we would have won)
We could have gone out if the weather hadn't been so bad. (=we would have been able to go out)


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