Can I use past perfect in conditional sentence?

Is this phrase correct?

She could have helped him would she had known something about first aid.

If this is a complicated situation, how you feel about it? (kludgy/strange/etc). Thanks.

  • I think it would parse easier if you swapped it around "Would that she had known something about first aid, she could have helped him." – Kit Z. Fox Dec 17 '15 at 13:47
  • I would write, "She could have helped him, had she known something about first aid." The "could" is enough of a conditional; "would" seems out of place. You could swap the clauses as @KitZ.Fox suggests, but then I would turn it into two sentences, punctuated as follows: "Would that she had known something about first aid! She could have helped him." – David K Dec 17 '15 at 13:59
  • @DavidK, ok, thanks. But question is: can I use 'would .. had ..third_form'? It this grammatically correct? thnx. – George Shuklin Dec 17 '15 at 14:31
  • OP's example is a mangled version of a valid construction along the lines of She could have helped him if she'd have known something about first aid. Which is syntactically fine by me, but personally I don't like that usage where the conditional if she'd have [pp] is fully expanded to if she would have [pp]. – FumbleFingers Dec 17 '15 at 14:38

No. The inversion for a conditional clause is only used, in my experience, for a traditional clause with a so-called "past subjunctive" (the same as the simple past for every English verb except for were) of the auxiliary: had, were, could, should, and sometimes did:


"Had I known, ..." = "If I had known, ..."

"Were he to ask, ... " = "If he were to ask, ... "

?"Did they but try, ..." = "If they tried, ..." (I've put a query because this one is marginal, and to my ear it requires "but" to be grammatical).

"Should he ask, ..." = "If he should ask, ... " (= "If he happens to ask")

The recent use of "would" for conditionals (which only some people use: I don't use it myself) does not allow inversion:

"If I would have known, ... ", but not "Would I have known, ..."

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