I have got two sentences and I want to know whether they make sense gramatically or not.

1) I would surely have crashed the car if I was driving at the time you called me.

2)I would surely have crashed the car if I had been driving at the time you called me.

Both these sentences convey the same meaning though I'd like to know whether "was" can be replaced by "had been" in sentences like this.

P.S- these sentences are not from my grammar work book.

Thank you

  • Alternate possibility: "...if I were driving at the time..." using subjunctive to show that this is hypothetical, contrary to fact.
    – GEdgar
    Mar 25, 2019 at 13:00

3 Answers 3


The past form must be replaced with the 'past perfect' form. (This is not a true 'perfect', but a past unreal: the 'perfect' construction marks it as past.)

Both clauses in a conditional construction must be cast in the same real/unreal modality. Since your consequence (then) clause is cast as would have crashed, a past unreal construction, your condition (if) clause must also be cast as an unreal construction, had been driving.

  • Thanks a ton! Moreover, could "were" be used as suggested by GEdgar in a comment as this is a hypothetical situation? Mar 25, 2019 at 13:08
  • @user8718165 You will encounter this sometimes in casual speech, but technically no: were there would be a past form employed as a present unreal, not a past. Mar 25, 2019 at 13:18
  • @ StoneyB "were there would be a past form employed as a present unreal, not a past" I'm afraid I didn't get this part. Could you please give an example...I'm sure I'll get it. Mar 25, 2019 at 13:23
  • @user8718165 If I were driving [i.e. at any time] I would crash the car [at that time]. This is a 'generic' present, an unreal version of "If I drive I will crash the car." The perfect construction shifts this into the past: If I had been driving [yesterday] I would have crashed the car [yesterday]. Mar 25, 2019 at 14:43
  • Thank you very much. My lack of privilege is the reason I'm not able to upvote.I accepted your excellent answer though. Mar 25, 2019 at 14:50

(I would comment but I don't have enough reputation yet.)

Your question is a question concerning tense. Both of these happen in the past, but "was driving" is in the past tense while "had been driving" is in the past perfect tense. This question has already been answered here: Replacing past perfect tense with past tense

  • I think I asked about usage of tenses with conditionals and to be specific, for this case...I mean for sentences like this. Mar 25, 2019 at 12:37

(2) is not only possible, it's the correct version. If I had been X I would have done Y.

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