In the sentence

"If it hadn't been for the accident, he would be alive right now"

we are using mixed tenses since that's what the context entails. The cause was in the past but the result is presenting itself right now. Now, given that the cause happened in the past, would it be wrong to say

"If it weren't for the accident, he would be alive right now"?

Can we always use them interchangeably when the result clause is in the present?

  • 1
    I upvoted this question because I found it a good one. Do not want to hazard guesses here, and so I am keen on knowing the answer myself.
    – user392935
    Aug 28 '20 at 14:57

The difference between these two phrases is the same as any other two sentences: one in past tense, other in past perfect. I’ll give you two examples to show you the difference:

  1. Let’s say I’m regretting something right now: If it weren’t for the wrecked peasants, I could have a better life now.

  2. Suppose I’m talking about something in the past: If it hadn’t been for the wrecked peasants, I could have had a better life then.

  • 3
    You need to choose more natural-sounding example sentences. Sep 12 '20 at 10:59
  • 1
    Did you mean "wretched peasants" in those examples? Sep 12 '20 at 11:06

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