Is it possible to use "would do" instead of "would have done" when discussing hypothetical alternatives to past actions?

What is more natural to say when there is a discussion on a past situation?:

  1. "I would have done something different' vs. "I would do something different"

  2. "He would never have done that" vs. "He would never do that"

Is it possible to say : "I didn't do that. I would never do it" Do i have to use "I didn't do that. I would never have done it"


3 Answers 3


Normally, you use "I would never do that" when you're talking about something that might happen repeatedly, or something that you would never do at any point in time. "I would never have done that" refers to one specific instance in one situation.


Who chopped down this cherry tree?

Dan: I didn't do it. I would never chop down a cherry tree.
Ann: I didn't do it, either. I would never have chopped down a cherry tree.

I think both remarks are grammatical, but I think Dan's version sounds more natural, while Ann's sounds awkward.

It took me three days to bike here. 500 kilometers! My legs are sore.

Fred: I don't know why you rode your bike that far. I would find another way to get here.
Ed: I don't know why you rode your bike that far. I would have found another way to get here.

In this case, I think Ed's version sounds better.

These examples were two random ones that popped into my head, and they seem to correlate with the advice given in A. Galloway's answer. Dan is saying he would never chop down any cherry tree, while Ed is talking about his friend's one-time bike trip.


||I would never do that|| is something one says (utterance) in one's present time.

It refers actually to an imaginary future.

Whereas: ||I would never have done that|| points back to a past where someone did in fact do something, which one is commenting on in the present time.

I used "one" to avoid you.

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