3
  1. Princess Diana would be 50 this month, if she were here now.
  2. Princess Diana would have been 50 this month, if she were here now.

Are both "would be" and "would have been" possible here?

If yes, is there any difference in the meaning?

If not, which one is correct and in what situation should the other be used?

  • It would depend on when you said (or wrote) that, before she would be or after she would have been 50. – Damkerng T. May 6 '14 at 12:29
4

Yes, the are both possible. Yes, there is a difference in meaning: "would have been 50 this month" implies that her birthday has gone by earlier this month, while "would be 50 this month" doesn't make that implication. They are both correct, since the context doesn't specify whether her birthday has gone by or not.

These are examples of present and past conditional. The present conditional says if a condition were true now, then another condition would also apply. The past conditional says that if a condition were true at some point in the past, then another condition would also apply at that point in time.

If you were to say "Diana would be/would have been 50 today if she were still alive" either one would work as well, because there is some ambiguity as to whether you "are" 50 today or "have turned" 50 today because of your birthday. Both are true.

  • If I was talking to a friend Jake about our dead friend Lou on the 10th when Lou's birthday is on the 20th. I could still say "Lou would have been 29 this month." I don't think the implication of the birthday having past implies here at all. – sraboy May 7 '14 at 7:24
  • @sraboy Good point. It looks like it isn't a good example, because my last paragraph agrees with you, and my first paragraph isn't possible unless the person being spoken of is dead. "December would have been our highest sales month ever if we could have gotten enough Zipadoo dolls to fill the demand" is a better example. – BobRodes May 11 '14 at 15:38
1

They are both correct in normal speech, especially when it comes to birthdays which are inevitable, technically, whether you're alive or not but there are times when the meaning changes more so than this.

Generally, "would have been" would apply to that particular event at that particular point in time. It's something that was likely or known to be planned but didn't happen. "Would be" is speculative without the implication that it could or should have happened.

Think about two parents who lost a child in a car accident a few years ago.

"He would have been a college student this month." - They know he was going to become a student but he's not now, because he's dead. It was supposed to happen but didn't.

"He would be a student this month." - It's possible that he would have become a student but it's less decisive or sure as the previous example. It doesn't as strongly imply that he was "supposed" to do it. The previous example is a sure thing. This one isn't.

I think the implication changes because "have been" implies an ongoing state of being while "be" does not... but that interpretation may vary from person to person.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.