In English grammar, we have "3rd conditional clause" with the format of:

(modal verbs) have been+ IF past participle

  • Ex.If I had known you earlier, I could have hired you.

HOWEVER, there are some instances that English language users, mostly the advanced ones, mixed this up.

(modal verbs) have been+ Simple past

  • Ex. I am mad now, because my account was the one that was charged for the processing fee when it should have been my buyer.

This is appropriate I think, but is this beyond the grammar rule? And only applies to spoken English?

  • 1
    For the first example - I think you left out the first word, "if": "If I had known you earlier, I could have hired you." You could also say, "Had I known you earlier, I could have hired you."
    – Mixolydian
    Mar 8, 2019 at 23:37
  • Well-spotted, cheers.
    – John Arvin
    Mar 8, 2019 at 23:45
  • 1
    Not sure exactly what you are asking. The second example sounds grammatical to me - at least in terms of the verbs. To rephrase slightly, to make the comparison structure more clear: "I am mad because my account was charged when it should have been my buyer's account that was charged." Does that sound wrong to you? What bothers you about it?
    – Mixolydian
    Mar 8, 2019 at 23:46
  • @Mixolydian, the mixing of different verbs of the other clauses in the second sample sentence. You don't see it in grammar books.
    – John Arvin
    Mar 9, 2019 at 5:59
  • 2
    Both sentences are grammatical—in terms of speech and writing. (Although I would drop the for in the second sentence.) There is no reason why you can't mix verb tenses. It's done all the time. You just have to do it correctly. Mar 9, 2019 at 6:55

1 Answer 1


There are things to English that aren't meant to be explained but understood. So, how do you understand these things if they're so hard to understand? Either by living in an English-speaking country or by hearing the language every day over and over.

That is informal English – is it correct? No. Are such mistakes acceptable? Maybe. Does this only apply to spoken English? Yes. Is it beyond grammar rules? Yes.

  • Great edit. Now I wonder if Kyle is an American or just emigrated to the U.S.A. because of this.
    – John Arvin
    Mar 10, 2019 at 17:00
  • 1
    I'm originally from Brazil I immigrated to the USA at 17.
    – Kaique
    Mar 10, 2019 at 22:37

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