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I would really like to know why "would + present perfect" are used in the following sentence:

In many schools, children are identified as “behind” with reading before they would even have started school in many other countries.

And whether it is possible to express the same meaning with any other tense or structure.

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jan 11 '18 at 3:44

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  • Are you just trying to understand what the sentence means? Or are you trying to understand why we use those words to create that meaning? – Readin Jan 11 '18 at 6:08
  • If Mika stated the question correctly and is trying to understand why "would + present perfect" are used rather than simply trying to understand the sentence, then I disagree with the decision to migrate the question to English Language Learners. I have no need to learn English; I speak it as a native. But I have no idea how to answer the question. – Readin Jan 11 '18 at 6:11
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In many schools, children are identified as “behind” with reading before they would even have started school in many other countries.

Despite how it looks, this is not:

  • would + [have started] == would + [present perfect]

This is in fact

  • would have + [started] == would have + [past participle]!

which yes, I know is immensely confusing, but when you look at it as "would have" + past participle you'll see that it falls into the "third conditional".

We use the third conditional (if + past perfect, would + have + past participle) to talk about something in the past that did not happen.

And I would say that this is exactly the appropriate tense because it describes an event in the past that did not happen at all.

REFERENCE: http://www.verbix.com/webverbix/English/start.html

  • I would recommend integrating the links more smoothly into your answer, rather than stuffing them into an isolated section. For example, link to the article on the third conditional the first time you mention it. – Nathan Tuggy Jan 15 '18 at 11:29

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