Is it acceptable / possible to mix past perfect, present progressive, etc. in conditionals?

In particular: The 2nd conditional (apologies to those who reject this common but by no means universal classification) is of the form

[If] + [NP₁] + [past simple] {+ NP₂} + [NP₁ or pro-form] + [would] + [infinitive] ...

Is it possible to use past perfect after the would?


  • If I were you I would have done that

instead of the standard

  • If I were you I would do that.
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1 Answer 1


There will be some contexts where people could use either of...

#1 If I were you I would have done that
#2 If I were you I would do that

...but #1 will often be used simply because it's less of a mouthful than...

3: If I had been you I would have done that

...referring to a hypothetical past, as opposed to #2 which refers to a "timeless" / present / future hypothetical scenario. In #1 (and #3), you've definitely already done something that I wouldn't have done (I'm criticizing what you did), but in #2 you probably haven't done anything yet (I'm advising you what to do).

Only extreme pedants would complain about the "mixed tenses" in OP's example #1. Google Books seems to have 2-3 times as many instances of the simpler (first) version of...

If I were you I would have done it
rather than the "strictly correct" alternative...
If I had been you I would have done it

  • "had been you" sounds weird because this type of "being" is eternal. If someone had been you, they still are you. We're not in a "Freaky Friday" world where people swap places.
    – Barmar
    Sep 26 at 20:13
  • Suppose the contextually relevant aspect of you in my example was that the person I'm speaking to was the lead actor in some stage show, but refused to sign autographs for fans after the performance. If I had been the lead actor [which you were] I would have done [the signings]. Nothing weird, linguistically. Sep 26 at 20:38
  • That's very different, since roles can be temporary. Although present tense still sometimes works. I'm not saying that "If I had been you" is wrong, it just feels less necessary to have temporal agreement.
    – Barmar
    Sep 26 at 20:42
  • Well, where I come from, you'll much more likely hear If I was you... But I think you're missing the point. Apart from being a bit "posh", the subjunctive in this context loses "temporal consistency", because it's timeless. But for my money, there's next to no difference between If I'd['ve] been you... and If I'd've been in your shoes... Sep 26 at 20:53

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