Consider the following two sentences:

  1. If I had a free year, I would have traveled the world.
  2. If I had a free year, I would travel the world.

Is sentence 1 referring past not probable thing?

Is sentence 2 referring present not probable thing? i.e. I don't have a free year now, so I can't travel.


1 Answer 1


The first sentence isn't really correct. It should read:

If I had had a free year, I would have traveled the world.

(In everyday speech, it is often spoken the way you wrote it, with a single had. I think it's more often spoken correctly, but both are common.)

It's called the third conditional; it refers to a hypothetical situation in the past, which (since it has already failed to happen) is really an impossibility.

Sentence #2 is an example of the second conditional—exactly as you say, it's something that would be in the present, but is actually not probable.

  • Yes, nicely answered. I never could hold on to money. If I'd had a million dollars when I was a young man, I'd still be a poor man today. I agree many would avoid the double "had" but it sounds more elegant to me.
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 6:44
  • @Andrew I think that's what I hear the most, actually -- people contracting the first had, but including them both.
    – spoko
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 12:56

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