As I was reading a deleted question that asks whether

If I would have sweet dreams, they would be about you. If my dreams ever come true, it will be with you.

is correct, I noticed that the incorrect use of “if I would have” in the first sentence somehow made me feel like the poster was Indian. I don't know exactly why, but it felt like something my former Indian colleagues could have said. So, is this particular error typical of (or quite likely to be made by) Indians, or is it just some weird feeling I'm getting for no reason?

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    Most (all?) of the people I've heard use it are native en-us speakers. – Peter Taylor Mar 22 '11 at 21:13
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    Native en-us speakers certainly can say "If I would have", but the example that F'x linked sounds wrong to me. I would have said just "If I had" in that sentence. – JSBձոգչ Mar 22 '11 at 21:20
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    It's not a common usage in India (in fact I've never heard it before) - so most likely your former colleague picked it up somewhere else. – JoseK Mar 22 '11 at 21:41
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    Whenever I see the phrase "if I would have", I always think it is because the reader is expanding "if I'd have" wrongly, instead of expanding to "if I had have". – lotsoffreetime Mar 22 '11 at 22:22
  • I think user653 is spot on with the reason why people make this (to me, at least) particularly irritating error. But it's certainly not peculiar to Indians - I've heard linguistically-challenged native speakers come out with it here in the UK. – FumbleFingers Mar 23 '11 at 0:02

Dutchmen sometimes make the same mistake, because the construction * he would do x, if y would be true is correct in Dutch, besides he would do x, if y were true, which is also correct in Dutch. This might apply to some other European languages as well.

In addition, I recently read that some English style guides warn(ed) against this usage too, which makes one wonder whether it is or was not more widely used, perhaps mainly in certain non-standard dialects.

  • I have most-commonly heard India-native speakers use the construction "If I would have [object]" not "If I would have [verb]" – New Alexandria Oct 9 '12 at 22:27
  • @NewAlexandria: How about with other verbs? – Cerberus Oct 9 '12 at 23:58
  • Do you have an example? – New Alexandria Oct 10 '12 at 1:33
  • @NewAlexandria: If she'd be my daughter, I would punish her. – Cerberus Oct 10 '12 at 2:01
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    @NewAlexandria: Okay, so you suggest that it is only/mainly Indian with "have"? That could be, I don't know; but it could be Dutch etc. with any verb, so...it would be a complicated phenomenon, in that case. – Cerberus Oct 10 '12 at 3:23

Probably not. This is pretty common when expressing regret towards your past self:

If only I would have known!

If only I would have taken the bus instead of the tram...

If I would have said, "I love you," she would not have left me.

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    If only I had known! — If I had said that, she would not have left me. – F'x Mar 22 '11 at 22:03
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    As discussed in the question linked above, all three of these examples would be regarded by many as incorrect. – Steve Melnikoff Mar 22 '11 at 22:28
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    @F'x: Oh, sure, your usage is probably more correct. I was simply trying to say that I hear this phrasing all the time and don't know anyone from India (or did you mean Native Americans?) It is usually pronounced via contractions: "If only I would've known!" My hunch is that the "would" seems to be rooted in a jump from "I would have said" instead of "I had said." You can simply say, "Had I said..." but it gets troublesome saying, "Would I have said..." so people say "If I would have said..." I dunno. Just guessing at this point. But I do hear people say that. – MrHen Mar 22 '11 at 22:33
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    @Steve: I agree. My point was not correctness. It was answering the question: "Is this an Indian shibboleth?" My answer is, "Probably not. I hear this quite often as such." – MrHen Mar 22 '11 at 22:38
  • Ah, fair enough then! – Steve Melnikoff Mar 23 '11 at 13:04

This thread is about the subjunctive case. There's a quick explanation on this page:


In short, don't use "would" in the clause with "if". Many people do, but it is not considered grammatically correct.

NOT - "If I would have known..." but rather "If I had known, I would have..." NOT - "If she would have said that..." but rather "If she had said that, he would have..." NOT - "If you would have paid..." but rather "If you had paid, we might have gotten a better answer.

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    It's ok, but I think you would need to provide context to how a given culture developed this subjunctive misunderstanding based upon their native language structure. – New Alexandria Oct 13 '12 at 21:31

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