1.if he were my brother,i would have helped him.

2.if he had been my brother,i would have helped him.

Are both of them correct? What speaker wants to convey is unreal past condition and past result.ao for that we should use 3rd conditional.but first sentence is written in my textbook. So now, I am confused.

2 Answers 2


The key is the sequence of events, and the point to remember is the fact that being someone's brother does not change over time (apart from some specific circumstances).

Normally the second sentence would be correct - the events have happened in the past, and therefore you would use:

If he had been my brother, I would have helped him

However, if he had been your brother he would still be your brother now. Therefore, using the first form is still OK:

If he were my brother (now, and presumably at the time of the events too), I would have helped him

It wouldn't work, for instance, where the events are limited to a timeframe:

If he had been thirsty I would have given him some water

You can easily see that him being thirsty now would have no bearing on giving him water in the past.


In my opinion and the references I usually consult, both are grammatically correct.

There is a very subtle difference in the sense of time. In the first case, one is stating a condition of unreality, and an action in the past: He's not my brother, but if he were my brother, I would have helped him (then)."

In the second case, there is some additional emphasis on the discovery of the person's identity occurring in the past. ("I thought it was my brother, but then I found out he wasn't. If he had been my brother...."). This phrasing is also used in a comparison to someone else's actions in the past: "John wouldn't help Bob at all. If (Bob) had been my brother, I would have helped him."

In both cases, the meaning is nearly identical. Also, the sentence can be written using the subjunctive (were) with a present-tense conditional: "I he were my brother, I would help him."

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