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I am not a native speaker of English. Could anyone please tell me which sentence is correct?

If I had money, I would fly to Spain.
If I had money, I would have flown to Spain.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Well, both sentences are grammatical, but they mean different things. It depends on what you're trying to say.

The first means, that if you had money, you'd fly there now or some point in the future.

The second can mean one of two things, depending on whether "had" is intended to be 'hypothetical' or a genuine 'past reference': so it could mean either (a) if you had money (now), you would at some point in the past have flown there; (b) if, at some point in the past being referred to, you had had money, then at that moment or some moment thereafter, you would have flown to Spain.

As I say, it's not really a question of one sentence being grammatical and the other not, rather that they have different interpretations.

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neil coffey thanks. that explains it clearly. –  GPEnglish Mar 16 '11 at 17:28
    
How could you wish for something now that would affect your past? –  Noah Aug 6 '12 at 23:28
    
You're not "wishing" for something as such. As a matter-of-fact statement, you're simply saying that if you were rich/had enough money, you would have flown. –  Neil Coffey Aug 7 '12 at 0:35
    
In 2b, I think it should be "If I had money, I would fly to Spain."(past, real conditional). Why use a backshifted future perfect tense? @Neil Coffey –  Zhanlong Zheng May 14 at 7:46

The following are correct (the second one is a correction of your second possibility)

  • 'If I had money, I would fly to Spain' (present subjunctive)

This means that I probably don't have money now, but in the alternate universe where I do have money, I think I want to fly there.

  • 'If I had had money, I would have flown to Spain.' (past subjunctive)

This means that, in the past, I probably didn't have any money, went to Spain by some other means, but in the alternate universe, the presence of extra money might have allowed me to indulge in flying.

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thanks.. but cannot understand why 'had' has to be repeated –  GPEnglish Mar 16 '11 at 17:33
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'had' is both the simple past form and also the past participle. So to make a pluperfect, you end up with 'had had' (just as 'had eaten', 'had given' etc). You don't HAVE to use a pluperfect in this sentence-- the simple past that you have is also grammatical (and again the implication is slightly different). –  Neil Coffey Mar 16 '11 at 17:42
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Yes, I agree that you don't have to have the second 'had'. It sounds weird with two (a bit formal) but it is 'correct' and helps emphasize the difference. With a single 'had' it is ambiguous, but sounds more like the present subjunctive. Also, separately, to make the sentences sound just that tiny bit better, 'If I had -the- money,...' or 'If I had -enough- money,...' but the originals are still correct. –  Mitch Mar 16 '11 at 18:04
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If I had money, I would have flown to Spain, means the same thing as If I were rich, I would have flown to Spain, while If I had had money, I would have flown to Spain, means If I had possessed more money at the time I was considering a trip to Spain, I would have flown there. The difference is in the timing of the lack of money. –  Peter Shor Apr 28 '11 at 16:34

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