The past unreal conditional is used to talk about imaginary situations in the past. You can describe what you would have done differently or now something could have happened differently if circumstances had been different.


If + past perfect, would have + past participle

Would have + past participle, if + past perfect


  • If I had owner a car, I would have driven to work. But I didn't own one, so I took the bus.
  • She would have traveled around the world if she had had more money. But she didn't have much money, so she never traveled.
  • I would have read more as a child if I hadn't watched so much TV. Unfortunately, I did watch a lot of TV, so I never read for entertainment.
  • Mary would have gotten the job and moved to Japan is she had studied Japanese in school instead of French.
  • If Jack had worked harder, he would have earned more money. Unfortunately, he was lazy and he didn't earn much.
  • Sam: What would you have done if you had won the lottery last week? John: I would have bought a house
  • Sam: What city would you have chosen if you had decided to move to the United States? John: I would have chosen* Seattle.

Only use if

Only the word if is used with the past unreal conditional because you are discussing imaginary situations. When cannot be used.


  • I would have bought that computer when it had been cheaper. Not correct
  • I would have bought that computer if it had been cheaper. Correct

Conditional with modal verbs

There are some special conditional forms for modal verbs in English: - would have + can = could have - would have + shall = should have - would have + may = might have

The words can, shall, and may cannot be used with would have. Instead, they must be used in these special forms.


  • If I had gone to Egypt, I could have learned Arabic
  • If she had had time, she might have gone to the party.

The words could, should, might and ought to include conditional, so you cannot combine them with would have


  • If I had had more time, I could have exercised after work.
  • If he had invited you, you might have gone.


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