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Let's say you have regretted that you didn't read books before, as a result you have a very minimal understanding about life at your present state. And you say:

If only I had read many books before, I would have learned more about life by now

*a regret in the past that has a result in the present.

Is this a correct usage of modal verbs?

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    Yes, but the sentence is clumsy. "If only I had read many books before" does not sound natural. I suggest "I didn't read many books, but if I had, I would have learned more about life by now". – Weather Vane Jul 8 '18 at 21:07
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    Yes, it's fine. And I actually find it to sound quite natural—especially if said in a reflective or regretful tone of voice. – Jason Bassford Jul 8 '18 at 21:56
  • @WeatherVane - or, "If only I had read more books...” – J.R. Jul 9 '18 at 1:16

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