Gabby: Susan, are you okay?

Susan: I'm just so angry. If Mary Alice was having problems, she should have come to us. She should have let us help her.

Gabby: What kind of problems could she have had? She was healthy, had a great home, a nice family. No, if Mary Alice was having some sort of crisis, we'd have known. She lives 50 feet away, for god's sake.

Susan: Gabby, the woman killed herself. Something must have been going on.

TV Series: Desperate Housewives (P.S: They are at a wake talking about her friend, Mary Alice, Who killed herself.)

Shouldn't the bold part be "If Mary Alice had been having problems, she should have come to us"? As a learner, I have learned that we need to use past perfect for one of the parts in 3rd conditional !


1 Answer 1


The statement "if Mary Alice had been having problems" describes a hypothetical situation and implies that Mary Alice in reality didn't have any problems. But from the tone of the conversion, it's not difficult to conclude that she was in fact having problems and, more importantly, she didn't visit Susan while she should have (because she had problems). Then, the way she should be phrasing it should be like this: if it is the case that she was having problems (she apparently was having them or it's very likely that she might have been having them), she should have come to us and let us help her (but she didn't come and didn't let us help her). And that's exactly what she says in the conversation. That if at the beginning of her statement is important because it tells us that it was very likely that she was having problems.

  • Thank you teacher. Could you please explain these two sentence? It is still confusing. 1) I would have picked you up down the block, if your cell wasn't off. 2) I would have picked you up down the block, if your cell hadn't been off. (Why here the second one is correct?) but in the original post the past simple tense is OK?
    – sami
    Jan 19, 2019 at 0:59
  • 2
    1) If your cellphone wasn't turned off, I would have picked you up. But since it WAS turned off, I was not able to give you a call so that I could locate you and pick you up. So, as a result of you not having your cellphone turned on, I didn't pick you up. Jan 19, 2019 at 1:06
  • 2
    I would say the second sentence means pretty much the same thing. In situations like in this example, the patterns if it hadn't been blah blah blah, something wouldn't have happened and if it wasn't blah blah blah, something wouldn't have happened are very much interchangeable in conversational English. Jan 19, 2019 at 1:12
  • 2
    Although they technically might be different, in this particular example they would be used to mean the same thing. And one last thing, I think the first sentence is the way you're more likely to hear it phrased. Jan 19, 2019 at 1:18

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