I run into the following sitatution:

If he had bothered Mike, he would have bothered him back so much that he would have forgotten about bothering anyone in his life again.

Is 'would have' the correct format for the part in bold? Can we use other tenses in the same context?

  • The would have forgotten construct looks fine - but the sentence uses four masculine pronouns after the comma, making it hard to figure out who is bothering whom, and who is forgetting about bothering anyone. – J.R. Mar 11 '12 at 11:35
  • @J.R. What do you recommend I do? Could we change it to something better? Thanks! – Noah Mar 11 '12 at 11:46
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    Well, I don't think we're really supposed to do this here, but you might try: "If Jim had bothered Mike, Mike would have retaliated so strongly that Jim would never be tempted to bother anyone else ever again." You might also try asking questions like this in the Writers forum - perhaps someone will kindly migrate this question there for you. – J.R. Mar 11 '12 at 11:55
  • I see you changed 'would have' to 'would' after the first occurrence, could you explain that a little bit? Thank you for pointing out the 'Writers Forum', will definitely start asking these kind of questions there. Thanks! – Noah Mar 11 '12 at 12:08
  • It all depends on what you're trying to say. The way I read it, you're trying to imply that the retaliation would be severe enough to discourage any similar "bothering" in the future. If so, I believe "would never be" reads better than "would never have been" - it's more direct, and is putting more emphasis on the future - although either is grammatically acceptable. – J.R. Mar 11 '12 at 16:30

Simplify it to ‘If he had bothered Mike . . . he would have forgotten . . .’ and you can see it as an example of the Third Conditional which has ‘if’ + ‘had’ + past participle in the if clause and ‘would have’ + past participle in the main clause. It is used to express something which didn’t actually happen, but imagines the consequences if it had. No other construction is possible in the main clause.

  • What about the tenses for the statements between these two? The first part is past perfect, the last is present perfect. How about statements that come between the two and after the last one(present perfect). Should it also follow the same tense structure? – Noah Mar 12 '12 at 23:04
  • @Noah: Example, please. – Barrie England Mar 13 '12 at 7:07
  • If Reed had bothered Mike, Mike would have bothered him back so much that he would have forgotten... – Noah Mar 13 '12 at 8:55
  • @Noah: Yeh, that's fine. – Barrie England Mar 13 '12 at 11:57
  • How about this: If I had done this, he would have said that I was/am a bad person. Can we use both 'am' and 'was' and is there any difference between the two? – Noah Apr 11 '12 at 5:11

Awkward and overwritten. Try this instead:"If he bothered Mike again, then why bother anyone else . . . ever?"


The 'would have forgotten' seems fine to me. But i were to reconstruct, i would probably do it this way :

If adam had bothered mike, then mike would have retaliated strong enough for adam to forget bothering anyone in his life again.

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