What is the difference between the three sentences:

  1. If i were to play, i would win the match. (Depicts future tense)
  2. If i were to play, i would have won the match. (Depicts past tense)
  3. If i were there, i would have helped here. (Depicts Past)

My question is that how do we identify where the past subjunctive is being used and where the future subjunctive is being used?

2 Answers 2


The first is grammatical. The other two are not. They should read:

If I had played, I would have won the match.

and: If I had been there, I would have helped.

  • 3
    Or feasibly If I were to have been there, for those who are determined to keep the subjunctive alive wherever possible. Which would be "Were I to have been there, I would have helped", in @TRomano's "if-less" alternatives. Valid, but a bit starchy/dated. Nov 19, 2014 at 14:48
  • @FumbleFingers Yes. I fully accept that. And of course Were I to have played...
    – WS2
    Nov 19, 2014 at 15:04
  • I gotta say "Were I to have known you were coming, I'd have baked a cake" doesn't really do it for me. But I suppose it's better than "Were I to have known you were to be coming,..." and you can hardly argue against any such combinations on grammatical grounds. Nov 19, 2014 at 15:08
  • Thanks for the reply and a nice explanation....Please help me get a litte more clarification on this sentence then : If i were you, i would have played the game.(Is this past subjunctive?) If yes ,then why? Also,help me to know the difference between the past subjunctive and the future subjunctive? Additionally,please help me understand whether the first statement of my question(What is the difference among 3 sentences) is correct or not? Should we use among or between in this sentence? Nov 19, 2014 at 17:29
  • @AnmolKukreja strictly speaking, I suppose what you should be saying here is Were I to have been you, I would have played the game. In practice what most people would say is Had I been you, I would have played.... yes I suppose it is a 'past conditional', though as a native speaker I tend to be guided more by instinct than by rules.
    – WS2
    Nov 19, 2014 at 17:34

Here are some more variants without "if":

Had I played, I would have won.

Had I been there, I would have helped.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.