Would Vs Would have

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Chazz

Senior Member
Dutch
Hi,

What's the difference between and more correct in a hypothetical way:

"If you were here I would have killed you with my bare hands"

and

"If you were here I would kill you with my bare hands"


(Just an example haha)

Thanks
 
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  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In basic terms:

    "If you were here, I would have killed you with my bare hands" = “If you were here, you would already be dead because I would have killed you with my bare hands.”

    and

    "If you were here, I would kill you with my bare hands" – “If you were here, I would commence the process of killing you with my bare hands.”
     

    chfattouma

    Senior Member
    Tunisian Arabic
    The difference is the following:

    1. "If you were here, I would have killed you with my bare hands. = 'were' is used to express unreality in the past, i.e. you were not here (sometime in the past) and I didn't kill you. The whole thing is over now.

    2. If you were here, I would kill you" = 'were' (past of unreality) is used to express unreality in the present, i.e. you are not here now and thus I haven't killed you. But you never know what can happen (in the future) if you show up any time later beacause I'm still very angry .

    N.B. Another possibility to express the same as in 1 is : "If you had been here, I would've killed you with my bare hands."
     
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    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    When you're using the "if" structure to express something that isn't (or wasn't) so but might be (or might have been)—as you say, a hypothetical—the rule is to go one tense into the past. Your second sentence, which is about the present, is correct:
    If you were here, I would kill you with my bare hands.

    Your first sentence is about the past, so its "if" clause should use past perfect rather than simple past:
    If you had been here, I would have killed you with my bare hands.

    P.S.: Remember that a sentence always ends with a period.
     

    dn88

    Senior Member
    Polish
    The difference is the following:

    1. "If you were here, I would have killed you with my bare hands. = 'were' is used to express unreality in the past, i.e. you were not here (sometime in the past) and I didn't kill you. The whole thing is over now.

    2. If you were here, I would kill you" = 'were' (past of unreality) is used to express unreality in the present, i.e. you are not here now and thus I haven't killed you. But you never know what can happen (in the future) if you show up any time later beacause I'm still very angry .

    N.B. Another possibility to express the same as in 1 is : "If you had been here, I would've killed you with my bare hands."
    I don't think that "If you were here" in this context can legitimately refer to a hypothetical situation in the past. In casual speech, maybe, but not if you carefully analyze what's going on with the tenses.

    If you were here, I would have killed you with my bare hands.
    to me means If you were here (now, or in general), you'd already be dead.

    I don't really like that sentence, though. The first part seems to denote an unreal present condition, while the second refers to something that didn't happen in the past.
     
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