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Sentence Patterns using "I would have..."

We can use this sentence pattern to talk about things in the past that did not really happen. We are just imagining the past in a different way.
  • I would have attended the meeting, but I was very sick.
    (Really, I didn't attend the meeting because I was sick.)

  • If Mark had helped, we would have finished on time.
    (Really, Mark did not help and we did not finish on time.)
Subject + would have + past participle...

Without an if-statement, this sentence talks about something we wanted to do or could have done in the past, but we did not actually do.
  • I would have stayed home because I was sick, but I had to give a presentation.
  • She would have come, but she didn't have a ride.
  • I would have helped you, but I didn't know that you needed help.
  • Karen and Tim would have come, but I forgot to tell them.
It is very common to use "would have" with an if-statement. We use these sentence patterns to imagine the past in a different way. If something different had happened in the past, would our actions have been different? Or would the situation or result have been different?

If... + subject + would have + past participle...
  • If I had prepared for the interview more, I would have gotten the job.
  • If she had left earlier, she would have arrived on time.
  • If I had had my cell phone at the time, I would have taken a picture.
  • If he had come, then he would have had fun.
  • If they hadn't been sleeping during the class, they would have heard the teacher talk about the test.
We can also switch the pattern of the sentence.

Subject + would have + past participle...+ if...
  • They would have won if they hadn't given up.
  • Tim would have come if he had known that you would be here.
  • I would have helped you move if you had asked me.
  • She would have attended the meeting if she hadn't been sick.
Bonus Tips and Points

1. We usually use the past perfect in the "if-statement". The past perfect is "had (not) + past participle".
  • If he had not been late, then he would have gotten the job.
  • If it had rained, then the game would have been canceled.
  • She would have been angry if you had said that.
  • They would have killed me if you hadn't stopped them.
2. It is also okay to use the past tense instead of past perfect in these sentences. Many grammar books say that we cannot use the past tense, but many native English speakers use both. However, it is better to use the past perfect.
  • If she had studied harder, she would have passed the test.
    (=If she studied harder, she would have passed the test.)

  • He would have been so angry if he had seen me wearing his jacket.
    (=He would have been so angry if he saw me wearing his jacket.)
Real-World English Conversations

A) If you hadn't come, I would have died of boredom. This class is so boring.
B) Hahaha. Do you want to leave early and get a coffee?
A) No. That would be rude. Let's get a coffee when class is over.

A) She would have traveled around the world last year if she hadn't gotten sick and had to spend 3 months in the hospital.
B) That is so unlucky. You don't get many chances to travel for a long time.
A) I know. She is still very disappointed about it.

A) I would have studied English a lot harder when I was young if I had known that it would be so important now.
B) That's the hard thing. It is hard to explain to children about the future. They don't really worry about the future. It is the beauty of being a child.
A) I guess you're right. I probably wouldn't have listened to anybody if they had told me that.

A) I think that she would have gotten the promotion if she had treated her co-workers better.
B) What do you mean?
A) Well, she is a hard worker and always produces excellent work, but nobody likes to work with her because she is sometimes too blunt and direct. Some people think she is rude.

Use these free English lessons to learn the most common sentence patterns in the English language. If you learn these sentences and questions, it will help you speak English well. Study the lessons thoroughly, practice making your own sentences, and come back to review often. If you do these three steps, your English speaking will improve quickly and you will be able to have natural English conversations.

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