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I instinctively said

I would have had to have been over 180 lbs for that to have happened.

I thought that seemed overly wordy. Too many "have"s and "had"s. So I tried:

I would have had to be over 180 lbs for that to happen.

That didn't feel right, though.

My brother and I were talking of a past event. He suggested something that could have happened. (Something like, You could have hung from the chandelier to get it out). I tried the first of the above statements. I want to speak about something that would need to occur for something else to occur in that past situation.

What would be the proper way of saying what I was trying to say up there‽

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Related; english.stackexchange.com/q/35545/8019 –  TimLymington Dec 1 '11 at 15:29

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I would have had to have been and I would have had to be are alternatives, but have had already sets up the time reference, so the infinitive to be, rather than the perfect infinitive to have been is enough. Usage seems to confirm this. The British National Corpus has 15 records of would have had to have been and 45 of would have had to be. The figures for the Corpus of Contemporary American English are 38 and 67.

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I woulda hadda be ten feet tall! I woulda hadda be really fast! :) My instinct is would have had to be as well. I doubt if I ever use had to have been in normal speech. –  aedia λ Dec 1 '11 at 20:17
    
So, in a technical sense, both are considered proper English? Good to know! :) Much thanks, Barrie! I appreciate the reference, too. –  MicronXD Dec 1 '11 at 23:48
    
@MicronXD: Yes, we have a tremendous advantage now in being able to consult corpora. We can see how people actually use language, rather than having some vague idea of how they ought to use it. I prefer not to think in terms of 'proper English' or 'correct English'. It seems to me to make more sense to think in terms of effective English. –  Barrie England Dec 2 '11 at 7:22

Speaking casually:

"I'd have to have been over 180lbs . . ."

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Thanks Mr. Wiz! I wanted to upvote your answer, but I haven't enough reputation. –  MicronXD Dec 1 '11 at 23:50
    
@MicronXD thank you. The points will come soon I'm sure. –  Mr.Wizard Dec 1 '11 at 23:55

I would say "I would have to have been. . .". "I would have had to be..." would be grammatical, but as you say sounds odd here, possibly because it's not the tense your brother used.

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