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Would you please explain in which situation the following structure could be used? What does it imply?

'Both parties would have prepared statements of costs if they thought there was the possibility of an order in their client's favour'

The reason I am asking this question is that my understanding is that:

  1. when we use the structure like 'Both parties would have prepared statements of costs if they had thought there was the possibility of an order in their favour', we want to say that the parties lost their opportunity to file statements of costs in the past and they did not obtain the relevant order.

  2. we use the structure 'Both parties would prepare statements of costs if they thought there was the possibility of an order in their favour' to mean like that the parties could possibly apply for such an order today or in the future if there was an opportunity for doing so.

Many thanks

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This statement combines two parallel past conditionals in a single phrase. It could be expanded as

Lawyer A would have prepared a statement of costs if A had thoguht that there was the possibility of an order in A's client's favor. Lawyer B would have done the same had B expected an order in favor of their client.

In short, each party could have prepared a statement of costs. Neither did so. They did not do so because neither expected an order in favor of his or her client. (Perhaps each expected to lose.)

The statement as written does not say or imply that it is too late to file the statements of cost now, although it may be. It suggests that the failure to prepare the statements was an oversight or a mistake.

  • To clarify, which tense does the second part of the example sentence 'if they thought' describe? Does it describe the event happening in the present and/or the future? If yes, why then the main clause is used with would + past participle. Or, is there something different behind all these? – Obliviously Ignorant Mar 17 at 15:27
  • That is a subjunctive, a past that did not happen. It would be more correctly expressed as "if they had thought", the had has been elided here, and commonly is in such constructions. Here the sentence means that if, at the time to prepare the statement, either lawyer had thought an order for his or her side likely, that lawyer would have prepared a statement of costs, but neither did so. – David Siegel Mar 17 at 16:23
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We use would have in past conditionals to talk about something that did not happen:

If it had been a little warmer we would have gone for a swim.
He would have been very angry if he had seen you.

We use single would when we are talking about the result of an event that we imagine.

If you went to see him he would be delighted.

I have never seen this type of construction-

'Both parties would have prepared statements of costs if they thought there was the possibility of an order in their client's favour'

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