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Had the affordable automated machines were available, the safety could have been improved at a minimal cost.

OR

Had the affordable automated machines be available, the safety could have been improved at a minimal cost.

Which of the above two sentences is correct?

1 Answer 1

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Both sentences are close, but neither is correct.

When you talk about a hypothetical thing in the past, you have to backshift the tenses. Let's start with a simple statement: at some time in the past, these machines were available:

Affordable automated machines were available...

If we know that they were not available in the past, and we ask a hypothetical question about what would have happened if this were not true, we backshift simple past to past perfect:

If affordable automated machines had been available...

Now we apply a small stylistic adjustment, removing the if and making the clause conditional by moving had to the beginning:

Had affordable automated machines been available...

You can read more about this alternative form of conditional sentence here.

Note that you don't need the definite article the before affordable and safety.

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