Had Been + Would Have

Shylu asked for a discussion on this topic, so here it is.

Generally, these verbs are used as a pair in any of four sentence patterns.

IF clause MAIN clause

  1. If A had not been true, I would not have done B. (-, -)
  2. If A had not been true, I would have done B. (-, +)
  3. If A had been true, I would not have done B. (+, -)
  4. If it had been true, I would have done B. (+, +)
  • In 1 and 2 above, the IF clause is negative (-).
  • In 3 and 4 above, the IF clause is positive (+).
  • In 1 and 3 above, the MAIN clause is negative (-).
  • In 2 and 4 above, the MAIN clause is positive (+).

You should have learned in previous discussions that “would have” is talking about an unreal or hypothetical situation. That is, something that might have happened but did not.

The IF clause is the cause. The MAIN clause is the effect or result. We have an expression, “cause and effect”. If A is the cause, then B is the effect.

Let’s look at some examples:

Scenario 1: Tom’s itinerary (travel plan) has him arriving in Chicago on Plane A at 9:00 pm and leaving Chicago on Plane B at 9:30 pm to go to New York. Plane A arrived 1 hour late! Tom missed Plane B and had to spend the night in Chicago.

Let’s describe this situation using all four sentence patterns.

  1. (-, -) If Plane A had not been late, Tom would not have missed Plane B.
  2. (-, +) If Plane A had not been late, Tom would have left on Plane B on time.
  3. (+, -) If Plane A had been on time, Tom would not have missed Plane B.
  4. (+, +) If Plane A had been on time, Tom would have left on Plane B.

Notice that I had to change some words to change from negative to positive and vice versa.

Scenario 2: Lee had an online class scheduled to start at noon (12:00 pm). At 11:00 pm, he was driving his car downtown and had a fender bender (a car accident). His car was totaled (destroyed; undrivable). Lee had to talk to the police, notify his auto insurance company, call a tow truck, and call a taxi. Lee arrived home at 2:00 pm.

Let’s describe this situation using all four sentence patterns.

  1. (-, -) If Lee had not been so careless, he would not have had totaled his car.
  2. (-, +) If Lee had not been so careless, he would have avoided this accident.
  3. (+, -) If Lee had been more careful, he would not have totaled his car.
  4. (+, +) If Lee had been more careful, he would have started his class on time.

Notice that I had to change some words to change from negative to positive and vice versa.

Scenario 3: Mary had a little lamb. Mary became sleepy and fell asleep (went to sleep unintentionally) on the couch. While Mary was sleeping, the lamb wandered off and got lost. Mary woke up and could not find her lamb.

Now it is your turn. Describe the cause and effects of this situation using all four sentence patterns. I’ll get you started on Sentence 1.

  1. (-, -) If Mary had not been so sleepy,
  2. (-, +)
  3. (+, -)
  4. (+, +)

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