Abby ------- such a successful swimmer now if she hadn't practised so much as a child.

  1. won't be
  2. wouldn't be
  3. wouldn't have been
  4. hadn't been

I did a test and I chose #3 but #2 turned out to be correct.

I don't understand why though. I thought this was third conditional and since past perfect was used in the if clause, answer #3 would be correct.

  • If this is a test, it's not a very good one, since both #2 and #3 are perfectly valid. This is nothing to do with "reference to the past" (since we're talking about her being a successful swimmer now). It's purely a stylistic choice whether to use the perfect form to reference a hypothetical present situation (her not being a successful swimmer now definitely isn't the case, specifically because she practiced so much). Mar 19, 2019 at 15:49

2 Answers 2


You could use #3 if she weren't a successful swimmer now. However, if she is, you wouldn't ideally use any form of past tense to talk about her being a successful swimmer. However, people do, so your error wouldn't necessarily be thought of as one if you just used it when speaking. Properly, though, you wouldn't say have been regarding a characteristic that someone still has.

The verbs across a sentence don't all have to match in tense, especially when they are in distinct clauses or phrases. We often make statements about the present that are related to a conditional in the past.


The premise is that Abby "practised so much as a child" That is in the past, as is shown by "child" so "if she hadn't" is used. If it was a premise about the present, "If she wasn't" would be used instead, such as

Abby wouldn't play basketball so well if she wasn't so tall.

But the conclusion, "[be]a successful swimmer now" is in the present, as shown by "now", so the conclusion is introduced by "wouldn't be" rather than "wouldn't have been".

If both conclusion and premise were in the past, "wouldn't have been" would be used, as for example:

Abby wouldn't have been admitted to college last year if she hadn't studied so much as a child.

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