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What is the difference between these 2 sentences:

If I knew him, I would say hello.
If I knew him, I would have said hello.

I found the second sentence here : https://www.ego4u.com/en/cram-up/grammar/conditional-sentences/exceptions

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2 Answers 2

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If I knew him, I would say hello. But I don't know him so I don't say hello. We say this now about a situation. [called: conditional type 2,for a hypothetical condition and its probable result)

If I had known him, I would have said hello. But I didn't know him so I didn't say hello. We say this now about a past situation. [also called conditional type 3, a hypothetical condition in the past ]

If I knew him, I would have said hello.= can be called many things: ungrammatical, non-standard, uneducated or even "dialectal" in cases other speech features are present. This is heard a lot in speech when the speakers actually mean: If I had known him.....

Kindly note: the present is called conditional 1: I if know him, I will say hello. Conditional type 1 for a possibility and/or general truth.

There are much fancier names and descriptions for all this. There are even mixed conditionals, but the posted sentence is not one.

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    (–1) If I knew him, I would have said hello is very much grammatical (see CaGEL, p.752).
    – user3395
    Sep 17, 2018 at 16:36
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    No, it really is not, even if Americans use it all the time. It is completely ungrammatical and, if you think about it, makes no sense regardless of what CaGEL,p.752 says. "if I knew him" can only be uttered in the present and cannot go with a past perfect. "If I knew him, I would say hello."
    – Lambie
    Sep 17, 2018 at 17:22
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – user230
    Sep 17, 2018 at 21:29
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If you were at a tattoo parlor getting "ELL" tattooed on your left buttock, and someone you knew walked in, what would you do?
—If I knew him, I would say hello.
Were you always so friendly and outgoing? Would you have done the same ten years ago?
—Yes, if I knew him, I would have said hello.
How about this morning? You seemed pretty grumpy, like you hated the world.
—Yes, even this morning. If I knew him, I would have said hello.

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  • Were you always [in the past]; would you have done the same ten years ago? Yes, if I had known him, I would've. If I knew is present. Whether linguists agree or not. No professor would leave: If those particular troops fought in World War II, they would have seen major battles in the Pacific or in Europe. It has to be: had fought.
    – Lambie
    Sep 17, 2018 at 18:10
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    @Lambie: In AmE, if I knew can also be used with the past situation; it's not ungrammatical there. books.google.com/…
    – TimR
    Sep 17, 2018 at 18:41

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