Time magazine’s (Jan 27) article titled, “Huck: “I didn’t approve that message,” begins with the following sentence:

“On Fox News' "Your World" Friday, ex-AR Guv says Gingrich's campaign did not ask to use his sound bite and "would not have received [permission] had they." Adds he would "love" for the Georgian's team to take down the ad.”

To a non-native English speaker who learned English mostly from “bookish” English readers, it is difficult to understand the phrase "would not have received [permission] had they," particularly the meaning of ‘had they.’

Is this grammatically perfect expression? If not, what word is omitted before ‘had they’? How can the phrase be spelt out in easier-to understand format?

  • By the way, ex-Mike Huckabee isn't correct. Ex- means formerly (not anymore). You would say ex-governor Mike Huckabee, meaning that Mike Huckabee was formerly a governor.
    – Daniel
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 1:26
  • @Daniel. If I put ex-Huckabee in the heading of my question, it’s becasue I pasted “ex-AR Guv” directly from the article text into the heading and replaced it with “Huckabee” without erasing ex-. Sorry for ex-AR governor and for confusing all of you. Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 4:18

3 Answers 3


To fully spell out the phrase:

They did not ask permission to use the sound bite, and if they had asked for permission, they would not have received it.

The sentence is grammatical; "had they" is an alternative formation of "If they had". Similarly, "Were they" can be used in place of "If they were":

I said 'Yes' when they asked last week, but were they to ask today, I would say 'No'.

  • Even if "would not have received (permission) had they," is grammatically correct (I know it's the subjunctive past mood), isn’t it better to have comma between “received” and “had they,” though comma wasn’t vocalized in the talk. At least (I think) there should have been a pause between “received” and “had they, when the line was delivered. Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 4:43
  • Nope, there's no pause there, nor any cause for a comma. Generally when an "if" statement is inverted it's treated as a single continuous unit, whereas when the "If" comes first there is almost always a pause: "I would do it if he asked" but "If he asked, I would do it".
    – Hellion
    Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 6:23
  • I was ignorant of that rule, which is difficult to lean from ordinary grammar books, particularly at my age. Thanks, it solved my question. Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 8:34

The omitted, implied word is "had they asked".

  • Or more commonly for this construction, "had they done so" - usually the operative verb (in this case, perhaps "did not ask", or something similar) will actually have occurred somewhere in the immediately preceding words. Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 16:30

“(He) would not have received [permission] had they."

Is better put as "“(He) would not have received [permission] if they had."

hope this helps :-)

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