Are the tenses in this sentence correct?

If you would have worked hard you would not have had to suffer this much.

or should this be correct?

If you would had worked hard you would not have had to suffer this much.

I am not sure whether I should use have or had following would.

  • 2
    A simple search for "would have vs would had" gives many results. If you did this, what did you find?
    – Davo
    Mar 27, 2017 at 14:01
  • 1
    We generally don't allow "proofreading" questions. Please add more detail what about this grammar you find confusing or difficult, so that other people can benefit from the answer.
    – Andrew
    Mar 27, 2017 at 14:26
  • 7
    @Andrew I don't think this is a proofreading question. There's a specific point the OP is asking for. Mar 27, 2017 at 14:48
  • 7
    @Andrew Generally, you can infer this from the singular part of the sentences that are different... which is why this sort of question generally isn't considered proofreading... that being said, the user needs to explain more and show some basic research.
    – Catija
    Mar 27, 2017 at 15:12
  • Modals (like would, can, might, may) are always followed by the base form of the next verb, whether it is a full verb or an auxiliary. So would had is never grammatical.
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 1, 2021 at 23:51

3 Answers 3


Both of your suggested sentences are incorrect. You want to talk about a hypothetical situation: to do this, for most sentences you simply backshift the tense, in the same way that you would for reported speech. As you will see from this link, simple past goes to past perfect:

you worked hard - simple past: a past action
you had worked hard - past perfect: backshifted for a hypothetical situation

Plug that into the sentence, and you get:

If you had worked hard, you would not have had to suffer this much.

You only use would for hypothetical situations when you need the past of will.

I will meet you at the airport
I would meet you at the airport if I had a car.

  • 1
    In colloquial English (AmE at least) we often hear this pattern: "If you woulda told me earlier, I coulda done something about it." meaning, "Had you seen fit to tell me earlier, I could have done something about it."
    – TimR
    Apr 1, 2017 at 11:07

The first is correct: "If you would have worked, . . . "

Why? . . . because the tense is future perfective; and, only the first part of the verbal form changes in such a construction.

And, by the way, I think, it should properly be this: "If you would have worked hard, you would not have had to have suffered this much."

  • The construction you are proffering (...have had to have suffered...) seems to be rare and interesting from a grammatical point of view. In what areas of the English speaking world can it be encountered?
    – user143762
    Oct 4, 2021 at 20:52

"Would have" is a modal verb that describes an unreal condition in the past. Usually, would have suggests a bad feeling about the past. Could have, would have, and should have are sometimes called “modals of lost opportunities”

Both your sentences are incorrect (never use has or had to form a past modal):

  • When talking about something that didn’t happen in the past, many English speakers use the conditional perfect (if I would have done) when they should be using the past perfect (if I had done) instead. The conditional perfect can only go in the then clause – it is grammatically incorrect to use the conditional perfect in the if clause:

  • The same mistake occurs with the verb wish. You can’t use the conditional perfect when wishing something had happened. Again, you need the past perfect.

  • You can always reverse conditional sentences.

The correct structure in your example should be:

  • If you had worked hard, you would not have had to suffer this much.

If would have comes first, there should be no comma.

  • You would not have had to suffer this much if you had worked hard.
  • Can anyone explain why this answer has received downvotes? To me it seems correct.
    – AbVk1718
    Apr 7, 2022 at 17:58

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