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I've been asked to give a speech tomorrow. Since I'm not prepared I said:

"Had you told me earlier I could've prepared for it."

Q 1) Was the response correct?

Q 2) Is it the third conditional since there a two hypothetical past events? (One is the he didn't tell me earlier and the other one is that I couldn't take preparation.)

Q 3) What's the difference between my original sentence and the following sentence:

"If you had told me earlier I could've prepared for it."

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  • 1
    Does this answer your question? "had they known" or "if they had known". Also Sentense-structure: Meaning of “Had I been” and Have I had known about the lack of security and “had I stayed” or “if I had stayed”?, among others. Basically, Had you told me earlier is a dated/formal alternative to If you had told me earlier. May 5 '20 at 16:14
  • Thank you for it. I'm afraid my rep isn't high enough to comment in other posts yet. I know my sentence is correct and that 'if you had' is more natural, but can you please tell me weather my response was correct given the context?
    – Ashraf
    May 6 '20 at 16:15
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    Define "correct". Your cited response is (or at least, was, maybe a century ago) "valid", but it's not something you'd expect to hear from a native speaker today. Most of us are perfectly familiar with it though, since we often meet it in past and even current "literary" contexts. As you're a learner, my advice is never to use this construction - just be ready to accept it as "valid" when you read it. May 7 '20 at 11:32
  • Thank you again. But, if someone asks you to give a speech right now and you're not prepared. Would you say- 'If you had told me earlier, I could've prepared for it?'
    – Ashraf
    May 9 '20 at 16:19
  • I certainly might. But I can be quite definite that I'd never say Had you told me earlier... :) May 9 '20 at 16:25
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Answer : 1) Yes, I think, it's ok. You have used third conditional, which shows unfulfilled condition, a condition not possible to fulfill (too late).

2) Yes, it's a third conditional. (Explained above)

3) If the word, denoting condition (e.g., 'if') is omitted, there will be a subject-operator inversion. It means the auxiliary will precede the subject :

If I were a bird, I would fly in the sky.

= Were I a bird, I would fly in the sky.

Similarly,

If you had told me earlier, I could have prepared for it.

= Had you told me earlier, I could have prepared for it.

Here, 'IF' is omitted, so 'HAD' is placed before the subject (inversion).

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  • 'Here, 'IF' is omitted, so 'HAD' is placed before the subject' ---> That's called inversion.
    – Void
    May 5 '20 at 18:36
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If you want to say that you are not prepared and cannot be prepared either, then your sentence is correct, and the use of the third conditional is justified.

The condition here is having enough time, since he needs more time and he should have started earlier in order to be able to complete his task, the condition cannot be fulfilled. Third conditional is used for no possibility. At this time it is not possible for him to do the task but if he had started earlier, he could have finished it, hence the third conditional.

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  • The condition here is having enough time, since he needs more time and he should have started earlier in order to be able to complete his task, the condition cannot be fulfilled. Third conditional is used for no possibility. At this time it is not possible for him to do the task but if he had started earlier, he could have finished it, hence the third conditional.
    – John Jami
    May 5 '20 at 20:15
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    @JohnJami - I suggest you edit your answer to include those clarifying comments. Your answer might fare better with a bit more "meat" on it.
    – J.R.
    May 5 '20 at 23:54

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