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Is this sentence grammatically correct?

If he had come tomorrow, I would have gone.

I am trying to convey that

He will not come and I can't go. Does it convey the same meaning?

Can "If +had perfect+ would have" be used to express something in future?

  • Please note: no sentence with an if clause can convey the meaning of a sentence or sentences without an if clause. – Lambie Mar 19 at 23:14
  • For my part, I would use the subjunctive instead of the conditional. 'If he were to come tomorrow, I would go home.' That seems more correct to me. Even if the 'doubly remote' is permissible, as Araucaria says, I find it imprecise, somewhat misleading, and odd. As one can see, the native speakers below are not in perfect agreement. As a result, I would certainly not use it in any formal context. – johann_ka Mar 20 at 12:06
  • @johann_ka I think that both people are probably coming/going to the same event! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 20 at 19:18
  • @ Araucaria - as much as I find the DRC odd, I'm enjoying our conversation and I'm learning a lot. All kudos and massive cheers to you! – johann_ka Mar 20 at 19:21
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If he had come yesterday, I would have gone.

That possibility refers only to the past. So, no, had come cannot refer to the future. However, had come tomorrow" is completely grammatical. Please read on. You can put in any time word/period: tomorrow, yesterday, in two lifetimes, it does not change how the sentence works.

For a possibility that has yet not materialized (future) when I speak to someone in the present time I say:

If he were to come tomorrow, I would go.

That same idea: were to [verb] is expressed like this:

If he came tomorrow, I would go. [It is not likely that he will come]

And if the possibility is not as remote as in the previous two sentences,I would say:

If he comes tomorrow, I will go.
A less strong improbability than the two previous sentences. The possibility is less iffy than with "were to [verb] or the verb in the simple past.

EDIT to my original answer: Please note what Rodney Huddleston says about this issue in his book The Verb in Contemporary English: Theory and Description doubly remote conditional

He gives the following examples: [page 110]

If they go tomorrow,they will meet her son. [open]
If they went tomorrow, they would meet her son. [remote]
If they had gone tomorrow, they would have met her son. [doubly remote]

These are the exact same examples in terms of verb tenses that I gave above (spontaneously). I just didn't name them formally. Traditional grammar calls these first, second and third conditional. A conditional by definition is an if- proposition or assumption. Therefore, it is not about the future.

These sentences can be spoken in the present time of speaking about an unmaterialized set of circumstances or they can be spoken in the present time of speaking about a past set of circumstances. However, in none of these, are they sentences "about the future".

Therefore, the sentence "If he had come tomorrow [or yesterday or next week or whenever], I would have gone" are all grammatical but the use of an adverb of time does not change the fact, none of them are future.

So, I repeat what I said at the beginning "had come" cannot refer to "the future". It only refers to an unmaterialized possibility uttered in a present time.

Indeed, imagine this situation: You (John) are in an office working with an assistant. Some visitor shows up without an appointment. You realize you have no time to meet with this unexpected visitor. You see the visitor through a glass partition window and you say to your assistant: "If he had come tomorrow, I would have met with him."

The implication here is? The guy showed up at your office. Please note the preterit: showed up. Only then does John (the person in the office with an assistant) say: If he had come tomorrow, I would have gone. [logic: But, the visitor didn't come the next day, he came on the day John uttered his sentence.]

What is the implicature (as grammarian says, which is also an implication)? It is that the entire idea of "had gone" revolves around a preterit and not the future. If you read the rest of the paragraph by Huddleston in the link, that will become very clear.

So,to answer the question: Does "If he had come tomorrow, I would have gone." convey: "He will not come and I cannot go." No, it does not convey that. It conveys in the present time of speaking a possibility that is unrealized.

Second EDIT:

This sentence by Mr. Huddleston: If they had gone tomorrow, they would have met her son. [doubly remote] is the same exact structure as: If he had come tomorrow, I would have gone. The word tomorrow could be: tomorrow, yesterday, next week, in another lifetimes and nothing would change that fact.

And using If + had gone [past perfect + past conditional [would have + past participle] in the second clause is exactly what 3rd conditional is in traditional grammar. They are horses of the same color with different names. Conclusion: Double remote conditional is Mr. Huddleston's name for what traditional grammars call third conditional as given in the book cited above by him. Naturally, all sorts of other possibilities abound.

  • The discussion has been moved to chat in case y’all want to continue it. – ColleenV parted ways Mar 19 at 17:29
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    These are the exact same examples in terms of verb tenses that I gave above (spontaneously). <-- Well, you use the same tenses, but they´re not the same types of conditional. H&P´s doubly remote conditional is not the same as an EFL third conditional. You can´t define a 2nd or 3rd conditional on verb forms alone. There must be a mismatch between the tenses and the normal tie reference. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 19 at 19:50
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Yes, this is a perfectly correct sentence, where tomorrow has the same meaning as it would have in any other conditional sentence. This type of conditional is sometimes called a doubly remote conditional.

We use conditionals like this when it has already been decided that the situation in the if-clause is not going to happen, or when we have ruled it out as a possibility. This is exactly the situation that the Original Poster asks about.

Here is the relevant excerpt from The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Huddleston, Pullum et al. (2002, p. 754):

enter image description here

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    I didn't say it wasn't correct. I said it does not express what the OP wants to express. Furthermore, everything I said coheres with Puddleston and Hullum (excuse the spoonerism: it's for levity). – Lambie Mar 19 at 16:40
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    The past conditional should definitely not be used to refer to the future. – johann_ka Mar 19 at 16:40
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    @johann_ka - Famous authors, writers, journalists use this all the time. It´s a very bad idea to tell learners that they shouldn´t do what native speakers do all the time. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 19 at 19:44
  • For archival purposes, this conversation has been moved to chat. – J.R. Mar 20 at 12:32
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    @johann_ka No, the doubly remote conditional is mainly used by highly skilled and versatile native speakers with a keen sense of the aspectual effects of using a perfect construction in these situations. It' s not one of the three patterns normally taught to learners. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Mar 20 at 19:06
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Generally speaking, I would use “I would have gone” with something in the past:

If he had come yesterday, I would have gone.

For something that will happen in the future, I would typically use “I would go” or “I will go”, like this:

If he will come tomorrow, I will go.


As for all of the debate that accompanied some of your answers, sometimes that's inevitable when we ask questions like:

  • Is this sentence grammatically correct?
  • Can we use this-and-that to express such-and-so?

Sometimes a question like "Can we use X to mean Y?" can be interpreted in a couple different ways, such as:

  • Do people generally use X to express something like Y?

  • Is it ever possible to use X to express something like Y?

  • Despite it being grammatically odd, do people ever say X to mean Y?

Consequently, you might see differing opinions, but that can happen when people are trying to answer your question from slightly different perspectives, or are making different assumptions about the situation and context.

For further consideration, see the blog post 7 Sentences That Sound Crazy But Are Still Grammatical. It provides some good examples of how even grammatical sentences may not be entirely easy to follow, and might even initially convey something in a confusing way.

  • The use of "will" after "if" is very tricky and not usually used as given in your example. It can be a replacement for whether: If he will come or not, I do not know. Or: I am not sure if we'll leave early. However, I do not think it is relevant here. If he will come tomorrow, I will go. presupposes a conversation about his willingness to come. In any event, "if" is not an actual predictor of a future situation, only a possibility. – Lambie Mar 20 at 15:58

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