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My confusion stems from the fact that both forms seem to be used for unreal hypothesis.

For example:

  • "If I were taller, I would buy those shoes"
  • "If I had been taller I would have bought those shoes"

Both seem correct to me. What's the difference?

3 Answers 3

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You are mistaken.

  • Type 2 conditional refers to something possible but unlikely, a hypothetical condition and its probable result.

  • Type 3 conditional refers to an impossible condition in the past and its probable result in the past. These sentences are truly hypothetical and unreal, because it is now too late for the condition or its result to exist.

Your examples:

  • "If I were taller, I would buy those shoes" - It's possible that you may still become taller.
  • "If I had been taller I would have bought those shoes" - You won't be taller and there's a slight implication of regret that you aren't.

Here's another good explanation.

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    Both in the question and in the answer there are these those! Aren't they typos? Apr 13, 2017 at 12:48
  • @mahmudkoya - Ah, I see. Yes. Edited.
    – Davo
    Apr 13, 2017 at 13:17
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conditional sentence type 2 refers to the present and future but conditional sentence type 3 refers to the past. for example: if I were taller, I would buy those shoes( it refers to the present. it means you want to buy shoes now or futures but you can't buy those shoes because you are not taller but conditional sentence type 3: if I had been taller, I would have bought those shoes( it means you went for buying shoes but you couldn't buy those shoes because you weren't taller).

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2 conditional.

If I met the Queen of England, I would say hello.

3 conditional.

If he hadn’t gone to the shopping, he wouldn’t have spent lots of money.

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