I searched this question up in google and it came up with a lot of results. Somehow I think it should be:

What would you have done if you had been in my place?

Are these both correct? If second is correct then I also want to know the difference why using "had been" in place of "were" makes it sound more correct? Is it because of past perfect puts more emphasis than just simple 'past' ?

2 Answers 2


With hypothetical statements, logic is as important as tense. This hypothetical scenario is about a past action, as it asks "what would you have done" (as opposed to 'what would you do' in the future). You might think that it sounds correct to match the tense by qualifying it with "if you had been in my place", as we use "were" for present scenarios (eg "If you were in my place, what would you do?").

It depends on how you want to describe the scenario. Some hypotheticals are 'impossible' - for example, "if I were you...". It isn't possible to be someone else, but that is part of the hypothetical. However, to ask what someone would do "in your place" is not necessarily impossible - something you undertook could well have been done by someone else instead of you, so asking "what would you have done if you had been in my place?" is correct because, in this hypothetical scenario, both events are in the past (the thing that was done, and the other person taking your place). However, if you are using the classic hypothetical scenario where you ask what the other person would have done, or do, if they actually were you, the tense doesn't really matter so much - if a person were you, they would still be you.

There are other, perhaps simpler, ways of saying it:

  • What would you have done in my place?
  • What would you have done instead?
  • So, "if I were you" is not really a past situation but hypothetical present event?
    – user963241
    Jul 7, 2021 at 11:24

Both are correct, but have different meanings.

Your version with "had been" is the more common one, and means the speaker was in a situation in the past, and is asking would have done if they'd been in that past situation.

The version you quoted is similar, but it means the speaker is still in that situation now, hence the present/future conditional "were".

For example, the speaker might be so poor they have to choose between paying the electricity and buying food for their family. So, they buy food. The electricity company calls and asks them why they chose not to pay their electricity bill. This could be the answer, because the person is still poor now, not just in the past.

However, it's also highly likely that the speaker meant "had been", but mistakenly said "were" in rapid speech. I would expect lots of native speakers make this mistake.

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