I know that in the following sentences "If I had known" has to be used in the place of "If I knew" to form the grammatically right sentences. What I really want be sure of is that as a native if all the 3 examples given below sound natural to you though or do you find it odd using it that way and so on? cause I've come across this to be used that way pretty often and it makes me wonder.

Please mention sequences of verb tenses in your responds too..(e.g, In the first example Subject wishes to be informed of the object's coming as s/he was on the way. looks like same time action)

  1. If I knew you were coming, I would've arrived from work earlier

  2. If I knew you would/were gonna come, I would've arrived from work earlier

  3. If I knew you had come, I would've arrived from work earlier

2 Answers 2


OK - my background is as a native British English speaker.

1) If I knew you were coming, I would've arrived from work earlier. This is perfectly easy to understand, though as you correctly say, the grammar is not correct. "Had known" is really needed. Still, some native speakers will say this.

2) If I knew you would/were gonna come, I would've arrived from work earlier. I find use of the contraction "gonna" the worst part of this construction. I think it may be more acceptable in American English. The same comment as above applies, of course, to the verb.

3) If I knew you had come, I would've arrived from work earlier. This sounds unnatural and needs a slight pause in thought to understand. I'd suggest you avoid it.

To a British English speaker all of these constructions sound a little jarring, but in informal situations, native speakers commonly use constructions which are grammatically incorrect. There is a danger in formal situations, that a native (British) English listener will assess your level of education or ability, to be less than it really is, if you use constructions like this. That will also depend on factors like the age and background of the listener.

Incidentally, and again in British English, the contraction "I'd have" is probably more usually used, than "I would've" unless there is emphasis on the "would".

  • So your explanation tries to suggest that "I wish you were here" is incorrect?! I must be missing something. I tried to find info on the internet, but I do not know how to call this structure of a sentence. Tnx.
    – virolino
    Mar 21, 2019 at 10:37
  • "I wish you were here" is fine. I am not certain of the reason behind your question, though? Are you confused by the verb form "were" - which in this case is an unreal conditional, not a past tense?
    – Ian
    Mar 22, 2019 at 12:05
  • I made the parallel between: "I knew you were coming" and "I wish you were here". They are incorrect, respectively correct - as per your answers. So I am a bit confused.
    – virolino
    Mar 22, 2019 at 12:09
  • OK - "I knew you were coming" is fine - its meaning is that at some time in the past, I had the sure knowledge that you were going to come. And you can extend that to a construction like that in the question. "As I knew you were coming, I came back early". The reference sentence though, is "If I knew you were coming..." but the intended meaning is different - it is meant to convey that I did not know you were coming, and it is this negative conditional sense that demands the different verb form - "If I had known you were coming, I would have come back early"
    – Ian
    Mar 22, 2019 at 22:10

All the sentences presented above seem to be incorrect grammatically. You can form your conditional type 3 sentence as follows:

If l had known you were coming/were gonna come, I would have come from work earlier.

This sentence has been formed according to the structure of the following sentence I have found in Practical English Usage - Michael Swan:

You wouldn't have crashed if you'd looked where you were going.

  • I know that the all three of given are grammatically incorrect , but I've also come across these to be used the way I've provided in casual register, thus I want to make sure whether it sounds ok to you too or not? Jan 31, 2017 at 13:45
  • @CavidHummatov, Let's wait for an answer from a native speaker.
    – Khan
    Jan 31, 2017 at 15:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .