It is often said when someone accuses you of doing something that you haven't done

For example:

James: You stole my bank card!

Ruth: No, I didn't. Why would I do that? (it won't work for me because I dont know what your pin code is)

It asks for the hypothetical reasons for doing something - that what could've led him to do that

Furthermore, by saying this, the person is making a statement that it is so unlikely of him to do that

But what I don't understand is why do people say "Why would I do that" instead of "Why would I have done that?". (as the action was done in the past)

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    Sep 21, 2018 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


Why would I do that? Expresses a general thought and is asking a general question. You express it in the present about a possibility.

Why would I have done that? Refers to a specific conditional time in the past when something actually might have happened. You express it about a past possibility. No action is actually performed (done) in the past. The action is hypothetical about the past or a hypothetical past action.

Both are correct, they just express different thoughts about a situation.

  • since no action was actually performed in the past (by the accused) . Why would I do that can work for an unperfomed past action?
    – user82515
    Sep 21, 2018 at 15:11
  • @user82287 Yes, of course. The action is hypothetical in the past with past conditional.That is why it is called a conditional. It didn't occur. Doesn't your mother tongue have that possibility? :)
    – Lambie
    Sep 21, 2018 at 15:13
  • it does. what confused me is that isn't would've used for unreal situations too?
    – user82515
    Sep 21, 2018 at 15:30
  • An unreal situation is the same thing as a hypothetical situation.
    – Lambie
    Sep 21, 2018 at 15:38
  • I know so would've can work here too. that's what I meant
    – user82515
    Sep 21, 2018 at 15:47

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