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I was doing my homework and came across this sentence in my textbook:

”If you had needed money, you could have asked him.” Does that sentence mean the same as ”if you needed money, you could have asked him.” I'm having a hard time understanding the construction of the first sentence. What is the ”had” for? Are the sentences implying the same thing or is there a slight difference between them?

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  • Was there any other context to the sentence? Was there some past situation before which "you" had needed money?
    – gotube
    Jun 23, 2021 at 2:35

2 Answers 2

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The first sentence is grammatically correct, it is the third conditional statement in which the IF clause is in the past perfect and the main clause in the perfect conditional tense.

The second sentence is the example of the second conditional, an imaginary condition. Grammatically the IF clause is the simple past that is correctly used here, but the main clause must be in the conditional past tense as shown below:

If you needed money, you could ask him.

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source:https://www.grammarly.com/blog/conditional-sentences/ credits: Achyut Soman

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I agree with the answer above. The first sentence uses the structure: If + S + V-ed/PII, S + Could + Have + V-ed/PII that implies the third conditional sentences, which describe condition that didn't happen in the past. While the second sentence is similar to the structure of the second conditonal, which describes imaginary condition. Why I used the word "similar" here because according to the structure of second condition which I know, it doesn't contain the word "have", so, from my perspective, it is ungrammatically. I think you should check the context which this sentence belongs to so you can use the structure correctlly. Hope this will be useful to you.

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