We use "would (not) have + past participle" to imagine something that did not actually happen in the past. We can also this to ask questions about the past. Remember, we are not asking about real events. We are just imagining.
- Would Tina have come if she hadn't been sick?
(Really, Tina did not come because she was sick.)
- Would Mark have liked to meet Sally?
(Really, Mark did not meet Sally.)
- Would you have come if I had invited you?
(Really, you didn't come because I did not invite you.)
This question is commonly used with an if-statement. We can put the if-statement in the beginning or middle of the question. Would + subject + have + past participle...+ if...?If...+ would + subject + have + past participle...?
- If he had studied harder, would he have passed the test?
- If you could speak English better, would you have gotten the job?
- If their best player hadn't hurt his leg, do you think they would have won the game?
- Would she have come if she knew that Mark would be there?
- Would they have bought the house if they knew it were for sale?
- Would you have joined this company if you knew that you would need to work overtime every day?
We can also use question words. Question word + would + subject + have + past participle...+ if...
- What would you have done if you had been there?
- Where would you have gone if you had gone on summer vacation?
- What would you have said if you had been there?
We can also ask about what someone thinks another person would have done in a particular situation in the past.
Bonus Tips and Points
- What do you think he would have done in that situation?
- What do you think Mr. Smith would have thought about the presentation?
1. We usually use the past perfect in the "if-statement". The past perfect is "had (not) + past participle".
- If he had come, what would have happened?
- If she had been here, do you think we could have finished?
- If the apartments hadn't been built here, would the river have been polluted?
- If you had been there, would they have fought?
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.
Real-World English Conversations
- If she had gone to the party, would she have had fun?
(=If she went to the party, would she have had fun?)
- If it hadn't rained, would she have come?
(=If it didn't rain, would she have come?)
- What would have happened if he hadn't shown up?
(=What would have happened if he didn't show up?)
A) I saw two men fighting on the subway and I did nothing. What would you have done if you saw that?
B) If they were big and scary, then I probably would have done nothing. But, if they were regular men, then I probably would have tried to calm them down.
A) If our last project had been more successful, would our company have gone bankrupt?
B) I think our company would have gone bankrupt even if our last project were successful.
B) Our company had some serious financial problems that we didn't know about.
A) Why didn't you tell me that my ex-girlfriend was going to be at the party?
B) Would you have come if I had told you that?
A) Probably not.
B) That's why I didn't tell you. I wanted you to come.
A) What would have happened if World War 2 had never happened?
B) There is no way to know. I don't like those kinds of questions.
A) Really? I think those kinds of questions are fun to think about. Study these free English lessons to improve your English speaking. If you learn these common sentence patterns well, then your English speaking will improve greatly and you will be able to have fluent conversations in English in the near future! Study the lessons well, practice using the sentences and questions at home and in real life, and make sure to come back to review the material so you do not forget. If you do these three things, then you will be speaking English like a native English speaker in no time!