2

This question is about conditionals

If I had money, I would give it you

  • conditional 2 (present tense)

If I had money, I would have given it to you

  • conditional 3 (Past tense)

But I've come across people mixing conditional 2 and 3 like

If I was there, I would have done that

What does this statement mean? Is it grammatically correct? I feel it should be like "If I had been there I would have done that."

  • “If I was there, I would have done that” is an awkward mix of indicative and subjunctive mood, but it's not exactly incorrect, and most native speakers would have no trouble with it. I agree that “If I had been there” is a more elegant way to say the same thing. – Bradd Szonye Oct 30 '13 at 1:50
  • What's the difference between "If I were there, I would have..." and "If I had been there ..."? – ZZMike Oct 30 '13 at 4:34
  • 1
    @ZZMike 'If I were there, I would have...' is not correct grammar. The tenses do not match. The first 'were' is the present tense. It may sound odd, but it means 'If I was actually there at this moment'. – WS2 Oct 30 '13 at 9:46
  • @WS2 The tenses don't need to match. See my answer. – Pitarou Nov 29 '13 at 6:56
  • 1
    @WS2 You clearly didn't do as I suggested. See my answer, and be enlightened. – Pitarou Nov 29 '13 at 10:38
4

It's entirely appropriate in some rather special circumstances. For instance, we can imagine a cellphone conversation:

A: Where are you?

B: I'm at school, Mom.

A: Really? You're not at the video arcade, are you?

B: I answered the phone, didn't I? If I was there, I wouldn't have done that. My phone can't pick up a signal at the arcade.

English grammar allows for far more conditional combinations than 3. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd conditionals are just the most common forms, presented in that way for the convenience of EFL learners.

3

The first clause of If I had been there, I would have done that is a counterfactual. The speaker was in fact not there.

By contrast, someone who says If I was there, I would have done that does not remember being there but hypothesises what she would have done if in fact she was.

This is a much less common scenario but is conceivable when speaking of events long ago:

If I was at the dance, I would have been the one standing by myself in the corner.

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