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If we had the confidence he did not commit the crime we would have said so.

I read this sentence somewhere, shouldn't it be:

If we had had the confidence he had not commited the crime we would have said so.

In the case of the first sentence, if I altered the "would have said" part like this:

If we had the confidence he did not commit the crime we would say so.

Would it be correct?

The first correction represents the third conditional while the second correction represents the second conditional.

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Better would be:

  • If we were confident that he did not commit the crime we would have said so.
  • If we had been confident that he did not commit the crime we would have said so.
  • If we had confidence in his innocence, then we would have said so.
  • If we had confidence that he did not commit the crime, then we would have said so.

"had the confidence" is not used in this construction. It would be used in a sentence such as:

  • I had the confidence of the board, so I could act without hesitation.
  • He had the confidence to do the job without asking for help.

In fact it would be mostly used when followed by "of" or "to".

  • Funnily, this has been uttered by a US official edition.cnn.com/politics/live-news/… – Fox12 Jun 1 at 18:43
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    @fox The report quotes him as saying ""had confidence" not "had the confidence ". That makes a significant difference here. – David Siegel Jun 1 at 18:47
  • I see, my bad then. If you consider what he said, does that make sense to you? – Fox12 Jun 1 at 18:49
  • @fox yes. Indeed the actual quote is very close to my fourth example. I think the extra 'that" is an improvement, but a minor one. Even the original as given in the question made sense to me, that is I understood it, but the form was incorrect. – David Siegel Jun 1 at 18:53
  • May I ask why the definite article is so game-changing here? – Fox12 Jun 1 at 19:02
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The two corrections you suggest are insert using the second and third conditional forms.

However, in order to correct anv existing sentence, the context is important. The two corrected sentences tell different stories: one says that you did not say he was innocent (in the past), and the other says you are still considering it (at present).

If you are discussing a part event and a condition that was not true at the time, you should use the third conditional. However, the combination "had had" is not used very often, and seems awkward in this case (even more so with a third "had" later in the sentence). Alternative sentences for this case are

  • If we had been confident that he did not commit the crime we would have said so (suggested in David Siegel's answer)

  • Had we had confidence that he did not commit the crime, we would have said so.

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