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In this transcribed radio interview, I saw two sentences as follows:

  1. He said had things gone as forecasted a few days ago, it could have been much worse.
  2. You know, had we had gotten that 3 to 6 inches of snow, like I said, with the 50-mile-an-hour wind gusts and the extreme cold temperatures that we had, we could have had a different scenario.

Could you please explain what "had things gone as forecasted a few days ago" and "had we had gotten" mean? I don't understand these two sentences very well due to these two parts.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – tchrist
    Jan 7, 2023 at 17:06

2 Answers 2

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  1. He said had things gone as forecasted a few days ago, it could have been much worse.

No inversion in a declarative sentences: He said things had gone very badly for them. Conditional: Had things gone very badly for them, they could have been very ill.

In order to produce a conditional there without "if", there must be a subject verb inversion.

The most likely reading here for me is just that. It is perfectly grammatical as is.

It is fairly typical to use a past perfect inversion without if followed by a past modal with could, should or might or other past conditional, for example. That sentence was written by a journalist.

The following two sentences are semantically equivalent (there is no difference in meaning.)

  • Had the weather been better, many flights might not have been cancelled.
  • If the weather had been better, many flight might not have been cancelled.
  1. "You know, had we gotten that 3 to 6 inches of snow, like I said, with the 50-mile-an-hour wind gusts and the extreme cold temperatures that we had, we could have had a different scenario".

Here we have the same thing but in an utterance. There is no need to insert if.

So, for me, it all boils down to a misplaced had in "had we had gotten". Now, it is possible that the speaker meant "if": if we had gotten. But without the if it makes sense as is.

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  • your answers above make sense. But I still don't know in what circumstance people prefer to use "Had things gone very badly for them, they could have been very ill" instead just use "If things had gone very badly for them, they could have been very ill."
    – Jeff
    Dec 30, 2022 at 3:29
  • @Jeff It is not about circumstances. The two mean the same thing. So, it's the writer's or speaker's choice.
    – Lambie
    Dec 30, 2022 at 15:52
  • I see. Thank Lambie
    – Jeff
    Dec 31, 2022 at 2:49
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In both cases the writer has left out the word "if" and used a less common word order to mean the same thing. Thus
He said [that] "If things had gone as forecasted a few days ago, ...."
and
You know, if we had gotten that 3 to 6 inches of snow ....
However the phrasing in the second example ".... had we had gotten ...." is pretty poor English and should have been picked up by an editor.

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  • Thanks for your answer. It is very helpful. I am wondering why and when we should neglect "if" and use the inverted form.
    – Jeff
    Dec 27, 2022 at 23:24
  • That text is not a news "report". It is a transcribed radio interview. Please refer to my comment under the question.
    – Lambie
    Dec 28, 2022 at 16:57
  • @Lambie Thanks for pointing this out. I agree "transcribed radio interview" is a better expression and changed as suggested. My further question is why and when we should neglect "if" and use the inverted form. Could you please help to answer? Thanks.
    – Jeff
    Dec 29, 2022 at 18:53
  • @Jeff Well, all my effort to naught because of a "belief" that if was missing. I really don't think we can assume the writer has left out the word if. This is not a reasonable answer linguistically speaking.
    – Lambie
    Dec 29, 2022 at 21:03

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