Consider this sentence

If I’d had more time, I could have finished everything.

I am aware that "could have" could be used in a hypothetical situation, e.g. imaginary past. Although I don't known whether the apostrophe in apostrophe + d represents "could", "should", "would" or have, could someone please give a hint? Thanks in advance.

  • I think in truly relaxed natural conversational context, most speakers wouldn't bother trying to articulate the Past Perfect here - they'd probably just go with Simple Past If I had more time, I could've [blah blah]. Certainly not many Brits would feel the need to go all-out with If I would have had more time... – FumbleFingers Mar 20 '20 at 15:59
  • Does this answer your question? Would I have (had) vs If I would have (had) and Had I vs If I had – FumbleFingers Mar 20 '20 at 16:03
  • There are almost no situations where 'd is ambiguous. – CJ Dennis Mar 21 '20 at 0:55

It's from the verb 'to have' and is an abbreviated version of the past tense I had. "If I had had more time..."

"Today, if I had more time, I could finish everything".

"Yesterday, if I had had more time (or if I'd had more time), I could have finished everything."

To make your life more difficult, we also use "I'd" for "I would".

"If the children did that I'd shout at them."

"I'd keep away from there if I were you."

Could and should are never abbreviated that way.

The context tells you whether the verb is had or would.

This example contains "I'd" twice:

"If I'd had more time I'd have finished everything."

It means "If I had had more time I would have finished everything."

  • I think that was what it was before (I'd was not a contraction for I should). But Merriam-Webster and Lexico include "I had", "I would", and "I should" as possible terms that can be contracted to I'd. Cambridge and Collins don't mention "I should". – AIQ Mar 20 '20 at 13:03
  • @AIQ Interesting. I can't remember hearing "I'd" and knowing that it meant "I should". Have you an example handy? – Old Brixtonian Mar 20 '20 at 13:22
  • Absolutely not. I have never seen anyone use that contraction for "I should". But seeing it in MW makes me wonder if it's a new usage. – AIQ Mar 20 '20 at 13:41
  • In such contexts, I think should is just a less common / outmoded alternative to would (which itself is often replaced by had anyway, regardless of what some grammarians think of constructions like If I had have lost you, I don't know what I'd do. – FumbleFingers Mar 20 '20 at 16:06

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.