Imagine a friend is talking about a past event that is finished and he has made a decision in the past. While he is talking I want to say that I would make a different decision. How should I say that?

  • If I were you, I wouldn't do that.
  • If I had been you, I wouldn't have done that.
  • ...

the first one seems more correct to me. But as far as I know that is often used to talk about the present. What is the right structure to use in these situations?

  • A grammatical way to say this (to refer to the past counterfactuality) would be If I'd been you, I wouldn't have done that. However, I believe native speakers of English would opt for something akin to If it had been me, I wouldn't have done it on account of if I were you's being somewhat fixed nowadays.
    – user3395
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 12:08

1 Answer 1


The structure that you're looking for is one of the numerous forms of the so-called mixed type conditional:

If I were you, I wouldn't have done that.

The if part is a subjunctive mood expressing a hypothetical situation: if I were you. The second part of the sentence is what would have happened if the hypothetical condition "I were you" was true.

Although not correct from a grammatical standpoint, in colloquial usage, it's quite possible to say was instead of were. However, I personally would advise against doing that:

If I was you, I wouldn't have done that.

  • As far as I know in similar sentences we may also leave out "If I were you" part and just say "I shouldn't have done that". Can this rule be applied here?
    – Karolini
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 11:01
  • 1
    @Karolini I guess it's entirely possible to just say "I wouldn't have done that". "If I were you" would be understood. That makes perfect sense. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 11:08
  • (–1) There was really no reason to introduce something that wasn't at issue in the first place – namely, the choice between preterit was and "irrealis" were in expressing modal remoteness – and then be wrong about it. Even if your advice is alright, if your reasoning behind it isn't (for example, some intuition would be fine, but fake grammar won't cut it), you're better off dispensing with it. (This is also kinda funny because you're not following your own advice there by using a preterit was.)
    – user3395
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 11:47
  • 2
    @userr2684291 - Those are strong words. Please consider leaving an answer of your own to show how this question could be better answered.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 13:58
  • 1
    @userr2684291 It's fine to down-vote answers that you believe are incorrect and explain why you believe that. If for some reason you can't leave a comment focused on the content instead of the person that wrote it, then don't leave a comment at all. Instead, write a better answer and/or post on meta if you think that an answer isn't scored properly and invite the community to make their own assessment.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 14:55

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