# If John F. Kennedy <was>/<had been> alive, he would have turned 100 today.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Context 1: Suppose today is May 29, 2017

1. If John F. Kennedy was alive, he would have turned 100 today.

2. If John F. Kennedy had been alive, he would have turned 100 today.

Context 2: Today is Aug 14,2019

3. If John F. Kennedy was alive, he would have turned 103 next year.

4. 1. If John F. Kennedy had been alive, he would have turned 103 next year.

Hi. Are all the above four sentences correct in the context? I make them up.

Thank you.

• #### Chez

##### Senior Member
If John Kennedy was/were alive, he would turn 100 today. (This is talking in the present)

If John Kennedy was/were alive, he would turn 103 next year. (This is talking in the future)

#### Boris Tatarenko

##### Senior Member
1. Almost. Replace "today" with "yesterday" or "would have turned" with "would turn" as you're talking about the present.
2. Incorrect. If... had been alive (today) makes no sense at all. The second part is also incorrect.
3. Almost. Replace "would have turned" with "would turn" as you're talking about the future
4 .Incorrect. If... had been alive (today) makes no sense at all. The second part is also incorrect.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you both. But why do you think “would have turned” doesn’t work? He is dead and can’t turn 100, so conditional perfect can be used to express counterfactuality.
I have just found this example here: My father would have turned 70 today - Robert's talk
If he had been still alive, my father would have turned 70 years old today.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
You might like to see what seven days had to say in this old thread: unreal conditionals choice
Thank you, lb. But what’s your idea? The context and structure of that example are entirely different from mine and I don’t find anything new in your link.
That example in your link talks about an unreal past situation, while my examples focus on the present and future.

#### se16teddy

##### Senior Member
1 is fine.

I think 2 is grammatical, but it would be better to use 1 because we tend to expect a past counterfactual with "has been": the past pefect tends to lead you up the garden path.

I find 3 and 4 confusing: I take it them to mean If he was alive now, he would have turned 103 next year, which is not what you mean.

#### Myridon

##### Senior Member
I think 2 and 4 can be read as saying that he never lived. It needs a time reference.
If he had been alive, ... he never lived. If he had been alive = If he had lived = If he had ever been alive
If he had been alive in 2017, ... said today, this makes sense to me.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you both.
I take it them to mean If he was alive now, he would have turned 103 next year, which is not what you mean.
Actually, this is what I mean. So I only need to add “now” in the if-clause so that sentence 3 will work?
I think 2 and 4 can be read as saying that he never lived. It needs a time reference.
If he had been alive, ... he never lived. If he had been alive = If he had lived = If he had ever been alive
If he had been alive in 2017, ... said today, this makes sense to me.
If John F. Kennedy had been still alive, he would have turned 100 today. (said on May 29, 2017)
If John F. Kennedy had been still alive, he would have turned 103 next year. (said today)

#### Myridon

##### Senior Member
Thank you both.

Actually, this is what I mean. So I only need to add “now” in the if-clause so that sentence 3 will work?

If John F. Kennedy had been still alive, he would have turned 100 today. (said on May 29, 2017)
If John F. Kennedy had been still alive, he would have turned 103 next year. (said today)
That doesn't fix it for me.
If John F. Kennedy were/was still alive (now), ...
If John F. Kennedy had still been alive in 2017,

#### lingobingo

##### Senior Member
Adding still makes all the difference, in my book.

#### marcbatco

##### Senior Member
1 is fine.

I think 2 is grammatical, but it would be better to use 1 because we tend to expect a past counterfactual with "has been": the past pefect tends to lead you up the garden path.

I find 3 and 4 confusing: I take it them to mean If he was alive now, he would have turned 103 next year, which is not what you mean.
Hi se16teddy, what do you mean with the past perfect tends to lead you up the garden path?

#### Myridon

##### Senior Member
Adding still makes all the difference, in my book.
A sentence with the past perfect should involve another event in the past that is not as far back, not just "now/today". Even with "still", there's no other past event in the sentence. Both sentences are said in a context that there is only now - the time the sentence is being said.

#### Thomas Tompion

##### Senior Member
Context 1: Suppose today is May 29, 2017

1. If John F. Kennedy was alive, he would have turned 100 today.

2. If John F. Kennedy had been alive, he would have turned 100 today.
I hate being embroiled in so many examples at once.

1. If John F. Kennedy was alive, he would have turned 100 today - I'd understand this as, perhaps, If JFK was still alive, he would turn 100 today.. or he would have turned 100 today (depending on whether it was said in the morning or evening).

2. If John F. Kennedy had been alive, he would have turned 100 today. - terrible clash between the past perfect and today.

I worry that you are being too mechanistic about all this, Thetazuo. There's more to it than the sequencing of the tenses.

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
John F Kennedy clearly isn't alive, so any supposition that he is (in the present) can only be hypothetical. This is a straightforward type 2 conditional, and the if-clause has to use the past tense. Use the subjunctive if you care about such things, the indicative if you don't. Ordinarily the main clause uses the present conditional ("he would be"), but if you are describing something that has already happened (and his turning 100 this morning might fall into that category) then use the conditional perfect, but the important thing is that you hypothesising that he is alive now.

If you are referring to something that would have happened some time ago ("he would have turned 100 in 2017"), then you have a choice. If you want to suppose that he is still alive now, then use a past tense type 2 if-clause with a perfect conditional main clause. If your supposition only goes as far as his living to be 100, and you don't care what happened after that, then it is a counterfactual situation in the past, a type 3 conditional, requiring a past perfect if-clause. "If he had been alive in 2017, he would have turned 100 on May 29th."

Note that the past perfect if-clause has to be set at a particular point of time in the past. Usually this is provided by the event described in the if-clause, but being alive is not an event, so you need to add an explicit time reference. I think that trying to use the event in the main clause to set the time of the if-clause is stretching things too far; it might work for an event unambiguously in the past, but it certainly does not work with "he would have turned 100 today", for instance. However, if you used "today" in the if-clause, you could get away with using the past perfect, because that part of today that has already gone is in the past.

The question about whether a time reference is needed with a past tense if-clause is interesting. I don't see that it is. Hypothetical conditional sentences don't usually have time references ("If I were you I wouldn't have done that"; "If I were you I would go to Australia"), and I don't see the need for one here.

Form the above, in my view, sentence (1) is fine. Sentence (2) would be okay if you added "today" to the if-clause. Sentences (3) and (4) are wrong because you cannot use the conditional perfect to refer to something in the future. Sentence (4) is also wrong because you cannot use a past perfect if-clause for something that clearly is set in the future.

#### marcbatco

##### Senior Member
John F Kennedy clearly isn't alive, so any supposition that he is (in the present) can only be hypothetical. This is a straightforward type 2 conditional, and the if-clause has to use the past tense. Use the subjunctive if you care about such things, the indicative if you don't. Ordinarily the main clause uses the present conditional ("he would be"), but if you are describing something that has already happened (and his turning 100 this morning might fall into that category) then use the conditional perfect, but the important thing is that you hypothesising that he is alive now.

If you are referring to something that would have happened some time ago ("he would have turned 100 in 2017"), then you have a choice. If you want to suppose that he is still alive now, then use a past tense type 2 if-clause with a perfect conditional main clause. If your supposition only goes as far as his living to be 100, and you don't care what happened after that, then it is a counterfactual situation in the past, a type 3 conditional, requiring a past perfect if-clause. "If he had been alive in 2017, he would have turned 100 on May 29th."

Note that the past perfect if-clause has to be set at a particular point of time in the past. Usually this is provided by the event described in the if-clause, but being alive is not an event, so you need to add an explicit time reference. I think that trying to use the event in the main clause to set the time of the if-clause is stretching things too far; it might work for an event unambiguously in the past, but it certainly does not work with "he would have turned 100 today", for instance. However, if you used "today" in the if-clause, you could get away with using the past perfect, because that part of today that has already gone is in the past.

The question about whether a time reference is needed with a past tense if-clause is interesting. I don't see that it is. Hypothetical conditional sentences don't usually have time references ("If I were you I wouldn't have done that"; "If I were you I would go to Australia"), and I don't see the need for one here.

Form the above, in my view, sentence (1) is fine. Sentence (2) would be okay if you added "today" to the if-clause. Sentences (3) and (4) are wrong because you cannot use the conditional perfect to refer to something in the future. Sentence (4) is also wrong because you cannot use a past perfect if-clause for something that clearly is set in the future.
Hi Uncle Jack. Could you please provide an example of If you are referring to something that would have happened some time ago ("he would have turned 100 in 2017"), then you have a choice. If you want to suppose that he is still alive now, then use a past tense type 2 if-clause with a perfect conditional main clause.?

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you all very much. It helps a lot.

So can we say “If he was alive now, he would have turned 103 next year”?

#### Thomas Tompion

##### Senior Member
Thank you all very much. It helps a lot.

So can we say “If he was alive now, he would have turned 103 next year”?
No. It's a normal 2nd conditional - If he was alive now, he would be turning 103 next year.

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
Hi Uncle Jack. Could you please provide an example of If you are referring to something that would have happened some time ago ("he would have turned 100 in 2017"), then you have a choice. If you want to suppose that he is still alive now, then use a past tense type 2 if-clause with a perfect conditional main clause.?
If Kennedy were alive, he would have turned 100 in 2017. [The type 2 if-clause refers to his being alive now]​
If he had been alive in 2017, he would have turned 100 on May 29th. [The type 3 if-clause only looks at a specific point in time in the past]​
So can we say “If he was alive now, he would have turned 103 next year”?
No. the main clause tense has to match the time of the event it describes. The conditional perfect can only be used for an event in the past.

#### se16teddy

##### Senior Member
Actually, this is what I mean.
Then your sentence is logical nonsense. Whether he turns 103 next year depends on whether he is alive then, not on whether he is alive now.

#### se16teddy

##### Senior Member
Hi se16teddy, what do you mean with the past perfect tends to lead you up the garden path?
It gives you a wrong and confusing understanding of how the sentence and thought are going to continue. Garden-path sentence - Wikipedia

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you all again.
No. It's a normal 2nd conditional - If he was alive now, he would be turning 103 next year.
No. the main clause tense has to match the time of the event it describes. The conditional perfect can only be used for an event in the past.
But we can say someone would have turned xx tomorrow (or other adverb of time referring to future). For example,
Walter Cronkite would have turned 100 tomorrow
Walter Cronkite would have turned 100 tomorrow
But the underlined part is a title. Can “would have turned xx tomorrow” or other expression along those lines be used in a conditional?

If he had been still alive, my father would have turned 70 years old today.
By the way, do you think the above example in post 4 is wrong?

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
But we can say someone would have turned xx tomorrow (or other adverb of time referring to future). For example,
Walter Cronkite would have turned 100 tomorrow
Walter Cronkite would have turned 100 tomorrow
But the underlined part is a title. Can “would have turned xx tomorrow” or other expression along those lines be used in a conditional?
You must by now realise that conditional sentences have rules all of their own, and that "real" conditionals differ from hypothetical/unreal ones. In a hypothetical/unreal conditional, "would" is always used to express a counterfactual situation, and is followed by either the bare infinitive (conditional present) or the bare perfect infinitive (conditional perfect), depending only on the time of the event.

However (this is the English language, and there is usually a "however"), if the event in a type 3 if-clause allows the possibility of looking forward from that point in time, then it may be possible to use the conditional perfect to express a future in the past event, which could refer to an event in the future. You cannot do this with type 2 if-clauses because these are either timeless or set in the present, and the type 3 if-clause has to express an event, not a situation (which means it does not apply to anything written about so far in this thread). You could, for instance say:
If Kennedy had not been assassinated in 1963, he would have been turning 103 next year.​
This sentence does not really work because the logic does not stand up to scrutiny (on what basis could you say he would have lived to 103?), and there isn't really any reason to prefer "would have been turning" instead of "would be turning", but in a less far-fetched situation it might be possible.

This isn't really a situation you should give much thought to, though; it is very much a backwater of the English language, and the usual advice with type 3 conditionals is to use the conditional perfect for likely effects in the past and the conditional present for likely effects in the present and future.
By the way, do you think the above example in post 4 is wrong?
"Still" is not really in the right place in the clause, but it is fine. "Still" carries the time reference over from the main clause and, as I have already said, "today" can be regarded as being in the past.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you again so much.
If Kennedy had not been assassinated in 1963, he would have been turning 103 next year.
This sentence does not really work because the logic does not stand up to scrutiny (on what basis could you say he would have lived to 103?), and there isn't really any reason to prefer "would have been turning" instead of "would be turning", but in a less far-fetched situation it might be possible.
Why do you use “would have been turning/would be turning” instead of “would have turned/would turn”?
You cannot do this with type 2 if-clauses because these are either timeless or set in the present, and the type 3 if-clause has to express an event, not a situation (which means it does not apply to anything written about so far in this thread).
I see. You mean “had been alive” is not an event but a situation, right?
So can we say “If Kennedy had lived in 1963, he would have turned 103 next year.”? (I think “lived” is an event)
"Still" is not really in the right place in the clause, but it is fine. "Still" carries the time reference over from the main clause and, as I have already said, "today" can be regarded as being in the past.
What do you mean by “carries the time reference over from the main clause”?
And if there is no “still”, then the sentence “If he had been alive, my father would have turned 70 years old today.” doesn’t work, right?

#### Myridon

##### Senior Member
So can we say “If Kennedy had lived in 1963, he would have turned 103 next year.”? (I think “lived” is an event)
This is ambiguous as "live" could be read two ways. Kennedy did live in 1963 (he was alive Jan 1 through Nov 22) but he didn't live through (survive) his injury. The event that took place was his death.
If Kennedy had not died in 1963, ...

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
Why do you use “would have been turning/would be turning” instead of “would have turned/would turn”?
Because of the relative times of the events. As I said, "would have been turning" is stretching a point in this situation; "would have turned" would sound quite wrong. Since the question was about the principle of using the conditional perfect for an event in the future, whether or not the continuous form is used doesn't really matter.
I see. You mean “had been alive” is not an event but a situation, right?
Yes, that is why it needs a time reference.
What do you mean by “carries the time reference over from the main clause”?
And if there is no “still”, then the sentence “If he had been alive, my father would have turned 70 years old today.” doesn’t work, right?
If you say “If he had still been alive, my father would have turned 70 years old today”, then the time of the if-clause is today. However, if you said, “If he had still been alive, my father would have turned 70 years old last week”, the the time of the if-clause would be last week.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Many thanks. I see.
If John F. Kennedy had been still alive, he would have turned 100 today. (said on May 29, 2017)
If John F. Kennedy had been still alive, he would have turned 103 next year. (said today)
So do you think the above two are correct in their respective context, Jack?
I think they are correct, given that the word “still” carries the time reference over from the main clause.

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
Many thanks. I see.
If John F. Kennedy had been still alive, he would have turned 100 today. (said on May 29, 2017)
If John F. Kennedy had been still alive, he would have turned 103 next year. (said today)
So do you think the above two are correct in their respective context, Jack?
I think they are correct, given that the word “still” carries the time reference over from the main clause.
The first of these follows the same pattern as the sentence in post #4, and is okay apart from the position of "still". However, the use of "today" with verb forms that refer to the past is dubious, and I sense from the comments in this thread that AmE speakers don't like them. It certainly seems more natural to me to use present verb forms with "today", which in this context means an ordinary type 2 conditional.

The second one is clearly wrong as a type 3 if-clause can only be set in the past.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you once again.
I think the following sentence would be OK. Do you think so? (Because the if-clause refers to an event so no time reference is needed)
If Kennedy had not been assassinated, he would have turned 100 today. (said on May 29, 2017)

After I have done a search in a corpus, I find a lot of examples where “would have turn xx” is used to refer to the future. Most of the examples don’t have an if-clause. For example,
Next month, Bailey would have turned 63, the mandatory retirement age for Chicago police.
Raise your Red Hots for Sophie Tucker, who would have turned 114 tomorrow.

Do you think there is an implied condition behind the sentences or other sentences along those lines?

There are also other examples where there is an If-clause with the main clause referring to future:
Lennon would have turned 70 this month had he not been murdered on Dec. 8, 1980. (John Lennon, Oct 09, 1940 - Dec 08, 1980 (age 40)) (this sentence was said on OCT. 8, 2010)
I suspect that if the above sentence is correct, then the following version should also be fine:
If Kennedy had not been assassinated, he would have turned 100 tomorrow. (Said on May 28, 2017)

Is my thinking right?

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
I think the following sentence would be OK. Do you think so? (Because the if-clause refers to an event so no time reference is needed)
If Kennedy had not been assassinated, he would have turned 100 today. (said on May 29, 2017)
That is fine grammatically, although rather poor logically.
Next month, Bailey would have turned 63, the mandatory retirement age for Chicago police.
Raise your Red Hots for Sophie Tucker, who would have turned 114 tomorrow.

Do you think there is an implied condition behind the sentences or other sentences along those lines?
No. There is an implied past event, not an implied condition (by which I mean there isn't an implied if-clause).
There are also other examples where there is an If-clause with the main clause referring to future:
Lennon would have turned 70 this month had he not been murdered on Dec. 8, 1980. (John Lennon, Oct 09, 1940 - Dec 08, 1980 (age 40)) (this sentence was said on OCT. 8, 2010)
I suspect that if the above sentence is correct, then the following version should also be fine:
If Kennedy had not been assassinated, he would have turned 100 tomorrow. (Said on May 28, 2017)
Your original sentence does not contain an if-clause. Just because we can rephrase conditional sentences into other forms and vice versa does not mean the grammar and the verb tenses stay the same.

#### Vronsky

##### Senior Member
I think there's nothing wrong with "if he had been alive today." Some native speakers find it acceptable. We're Alive/ had been alive / would follow / would have followed
This phrase refers to "up-to-now today".

Also there's nothing wrong with "would have" referring to the future. Your example from #29:
"Raise your Red Hots for Sophie Tucker, who would have turned 114 tomorrow." (Source: You talk back: Cheap thrill; Street food, seated; Happy Birthday, Sophie Tucker)
confirms it.

Also consider this: "could<would> go<have gone> to the beach"

But it you combine if-clause with a conditional past perfect (up-to-now meaning) with main-clause ("would have") referring to the future, it won't sound good.

#### marcbatco

##### Senior Member
This is ambiguous as "live" could be read two ways. Kennedy did live in 1963 (he was alive Jan 1 through Nov 22) but he didn't live through (survive) his injury. The event that took place was his death.
If Kennedy had not died in 1963, ...
Hi Myridon, what do you mean with Kennedy did live in 1963? Since JFK died in 1962, what is the meaning of the verb live in that context?

#### marcbatco

##### Senior Member
If Kennedy were alive, he would have turned 100 in 2017. [The type 2 if-clause refers to his being alive now]​
If he had been alive in 2017, he would have turned 100 on May 29th. [The type 3 if-clause only looks at a specific point in time in the past]​

No. the main clause tense has to match the time of the event it describes. The conditional perfect can only be used for an event in the past.
Therefore, if you use today in the if-clause, then you can use the perfect (If Kennedy were alive today, he ...), but not the past perfect (If he had been alive today, he ...), is it right?

#### marcbatco

##### Senior Member
Sorry, Myridon, I have confused the dates.

#### Kevin Beach

##### Senior Member
Shouldn't it be "If John Kennedy were alive", not "... was alive"?

However, I would find it more idiomatic to say "If John Kennedy had lived, he would be ..... ". "Had lived" has the meaning of "We know he's dead, but if he weren't dead ...."

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
Therefore, if you use today in the if-clause, then you can use the perfect (If Kennedy were alive today, he ...), but not the past perfect (If he had been alive today, he ...), is it right?
You can certainly use "If Kennedy were alive today...". Personally I don't think "today" really adds anything here, since the situation and the past tense (type 2 conditional) imply "today" without needing to state it.
While "If Kennedy had been alive today..." is a little unusual, I think it is okay, because "today" does not mean "at this moment". There is a part of today that is in the past.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you again.
Your original sentence does not contain an if-clause. Just because we can rephrase conditional sentences into other forms and vice versa does not mean the grammar and the verb tenses stay the same.
OK. I have made some changes to my sentence.
If Kennedy had not been assassinated, he would have turned 100 tomorrow. (Said on May 28, 2017)
Kennedy would have turned 100 tomorrow had he not been assassinated on November 22, 1963. (Said on May 28, 2017)

Does it work now?
But it you combine if-clause with a conditional past perfect (up-to-now meaning) with main-clause ("would have") referring to the future, it won't sound good.
Good guidance.

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
Kennedy would have turned 100 tomorrow had he not been assassinated on November 22, 1963. (Said on May 28, 2017)

Does it work now?
Sort of. It is much the same as my post #23. It is not a style I would recommend, and "would be turning" is more natural.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you very much.

By the way, is it correct to say “If Kennedy had not been assassinated on November 22, 1963, he would be turning 100 today.”(Said on May 29, 2017)?
Or “If John F. Kennedy was alive, he would be turning 100 today.”?

#### Uncle Jack

##### Senior Member
Thank you very much.

By the way, is it correct to say “If Kennedy had not been assassinated on November 22, 1963, he would be turning 100 today.”(Said on May 29, 2017)?
Or “If John F. Kennedy was alive, he would be turning 100 today.”?
They are both fine, subject to Kevin Beach's observation:
Shouldn't it be "If John Kennedy were alive", not "... was alive"?
Yes it should, in formal English.

#### thetazuo

##### Senior Member
Thank you so much, Jack. It’s very helpful.

< Previous | Next >