How should I complete this sentence? (Only with the options given)

He wouldn't be the star he is today ________ a good impression in his early life

A. Had he not made

B. If he didn't make

So, B is type II conditional and A is mixed type conditional. The answer sheet says A, but I don't understand why type II conditional doesn't work here. If he didn't make a good impression he wouldn't be where he is now. This sentence seems totally correct to me. What is my mistake?

Also, does "had he not made" equal "if he hadn't made"?

  • I believe it is because the impression he made is carrying residual effects, and that calls for the perfect tense that is option A. Jul 4, 2017 at 10:46
  • Also, I am not implying that you are not a native speaker of English, but you might have some luck asking this on the ELL site if you don't get a good answer here. Jul 4, 2017 at 10:47
  • 2
    Yes. Had he not = if he had not. Jul 4, 2017 at 13:29
  • This is third conditional. The main clause (He wouldn't be the star he is today) is in the conditional perfect, the "if clause" (had he not made) must be in the past perfect.
    – None
    Jul 4, 2017 at 17:53
  • 2
    The alternative that nearly all English native speakers would use is "if he hadn't made". They are making you choose between using a nearly archaic form of the conditional (had he not ...), and using the wrong verb form. Jul 4, 2017 at 18:06

3 Answers 3


The short answer is that you are right to question the workbook's black-and-white logic. Both versions could be generated by native speakers, but the first probably sounds better and means something a bit different. It also pertains to a higher register thanks to the inversion.

The problem is that we can't tell you why your workbook requires a particular answer and forbids a different one. Only the authors of your workbook can answer that for you. But you shouldn't much trust any workbook that pretends that there is such a a thing as a "Type II Conditional". That's a genuinely harmful misrepresentation of how English conditionals work. The only honest treatment doesn’t try to hide the fact that English has hundreds upon hundreds of combinations of tense, modal, auxiliary verb, and word-ordering in its innumerable possibilities.

Rewriting your two choices into more directly comparable forms, we see that the only difference is whether the protasis employs a past perfect construction (sentence 1) or whether it employs a normal past tense (sentence 2):

  1. If he had not made a good impression in his early life, he would not be the star he is today.
  2. If he did not make a good impression in his early life, he would not be the star he is today.

There isn't a right and wrong here: both forms can be trivially found in the speech and writing of native speakers. The first is probably preferred because it better conveys the counterfactual nature of the proposition under consideration.

The second is using a “real past” not a hypothetical one, so may or may not be slightly different in nuanced meaning in the mind of a native speaker. But quite possibly it means the very same thing to most people.

The inversion choice ("had he" rather than "if he had") presented in your original workbook is of a higher register than the uninverted version. That makes a difference, too. Inversion of this type is far more common in crafted literature or formal oratory than in casual, spontaneous speech.

Beyond that, there’s really not much to talk about here. Both things happen, and your workbook is teaching you facile lies to help steer you clear of many ungrammatical possibilities you might otherwise tumble into.

  • How is this a 'short' answer? Sep 2, 2021 at 4:31

Answer A is past real conditional in the past perfect negative form. Past perfect indicates actions or events that ended before another action in the past. Typically past perfect is used in conjunction with simple past to show which action happened first.

Answer B is past real conditional in the simple past negative form.

I think your workbook is reinforcing the past perfect.


If he had not is useful for:

  • When you're emotional/moody about the result of his action. In other words, the effects of the main verb can still be felt/observed.
  • When the result of the main verb is only possible because the main verb occurred. Synonym for if not for ("If not for his making the cake, ...").

If he did not is useful for:

  • Speaking posthumously of him.
  • When the result of his action is gravely irrevocable.
  • When you expect that he should have, but he didn't!
  • When you should have used 'if he had not', but you didunt learn et en scool!
  • Widely, however incorrectly, used interchangeably with "had not made" by Native English speakers, especially in the United States. *Note: this often leads to miscommunications.
  • Do you have any way of supporting your assertions? a reference? Answers are generally expected to at least provide convincing reasoning.
    – DW256
    Sep 2, 2021 at 6:06
  • @DW256 Yes. Thank you for your inquiry. I teach AP English and have been doing so for 20 years with tremendous success: I post a lot of info in the most-concise possible form. English does not have an official standards body. There are popular styles, but individual speakers and regions make their own styles. If there are some mistakes, I trust the community to point them out (they usually do in no uncertain terms). Sep 23, 2021 at 17:05

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