On Facebook, Libyans started inviting each other to something like random gift giving event on the occasion of Feb, 17, in Libya. It is a very good idea. Giving a gift to somebody else you don't know is a nice thing to do.

"If I was in Libya, I would've done it."

I saw the conditional statement above on someone else's wall.

Do you think, the statement needs to be corrected?

The person is currently not situated in Libya and apparently won't be in Libya in Feb 17.

The invitation to the event has started already and continuing until Feb 17.

The gift-giving a FUTURE event which is not taking place at the time of speaking.

"I would have done it" refers to the act of participating in the gift-giving event which is again a FUTURE event.

According to the rules of conditional statements demonstrated in the picture below. Which one of the sentences below would you choose?

1- If I am in Libya, I will do it.

2- If I were in Libya, I would do it.

3- If I had been in Libya, I would have done it.


1= expresses what will happen if something else happens.

2= talks about the outcome of a possible event.

3= talks about the hypothetical outcome of an event that did not happen.

I am confused between 1 and 2.

If Then Conditional statements

  • Yes, of course it needs to be corrected, but such is the state of English usage that those of us who think "If I was in Libya, I would've done it" is a solecism are deemed pedants & prescriptivists because native speakers have been misusing the language for centuries. It should be "If I had been in Libya, I would have done it" (the contractions "I'd" & "would've" are perfectly fine, however, but I've spelled them out for clarity). There's nothing that can be done about the way that real native speakers use the language, but that's their business, not mine. I don't have to sound illiterate too.
    – user21497
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 13:35
  • @BillFranke Thank you. You chose number 3, could you please tell me why number 1 and 2 are incorrect, in your opinion? Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 13:38
  • The sequence of tenses in English is difficult, but in this case there's no question but that the tense in the first (conditional) clause has to be past perfect: the tense in the main clause is also in the past perfect. The other two sentences are grammatically correct, but they don't mean the same thing as the 3rd sentence: different conditions because of the different tenses. The difference between 1 & 2 is that it's possible that I'll be in Libya in the future in 1 (the condition isn't unreal), but in 2 I'm not in Libya (unreal condition) & not suggesting that I might (or might not) be.
    – user21497
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 13:48
  • @BillFranke, Excuse my poor understanding, I am just being very much confused now. Since 3 refers to a hypothetical outcome of an action that DID NOT happen in the past, it can also refer to a hypothetical outcome of an action that WILL NOT happen in the future? Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 14:16
  • It appears that I didn't understand what you were asking. If the speaker is saying that he might be in Libya on Feb 17 (that's not the case, you say), it has to be #1. If the speaker's saying that he won't be able to go to Libya for the occasion of Feb 17, then it has to be "If I were going to Libya [but I can't go, so I'm not going], I would do it". And, no, 3 refers to a hypothetical outcome that DID NOT happen in the past, & it can't refer to a hypothetical outcome that WILL NOT happen in the future. Good question. Sorry for confusing you. My mistake entirely.
    – user21497
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


Your three sentences are examples of what are described in some grammar books for foreign learners of English as the First, Second and Third Conditional. The first suggests that there is a possibility that the speaker will be in Libya, and that, if so, there is a strong probability that the action described in the main clause will occur. The second imagines a situation that is unlikely to occur. The third imagines a situation that might have occurred, but didn’t.

In the circumstances you describe, (1), although grammatical, doesn’t really seem possible. The choice between (2) and (3) depends on timing. (2) would be appropriate when the gift-giving event is more or less concurrent with the time of speaking. (3) would be appropriate after the gift-giving event has taken place. If I was in Libya, I would've done it mixes up (2) and (3) and careful writers will avoid it.

(In (2), were is certainly grammatical, but some speakers may say was instead.)

  • 1
    Not just speakers but also writers, and they'll defend it by quoting Jane Austen or some other dead literary darling and claiming that standard, acceptable, idiomatic, and grammatically correct English is what most people say and write: Might (numbers) makes right. Barbarianism, I say. But I'm a certified hyperbolist, so you have to take my personal opinions with a pound of salty flesh.
    – user21497
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 13:54
  • @Barrie england The action did not take place yet, it will take place in Feb 17, today is Feb 12, people started inviting each other for the even that will take place in Feb 17, the event will definitely happen whereas the speaker won't be able to participate in it. Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 13:56
  • Is it number two in this case? Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 13:58
  • @Bright Polyglot. Yes, it is. Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 14:46
  • @Bill Franke. I need quote no such illustrious figures, only myself. Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 14:47

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