I've just come across one conditional that I don't quite understand.

If what she said was true, Marilyn had almost certainly left town last night.

I understand that the first part of the sentence is something like the so-called first conditional (Indicative), but what about the apodosis? Does it mean that something happened before something else in the past or does it somehow function similarly to the so-called third conditional? I'm leaning toward the former, but I've wanted to confirm my suspicions.

1 Answer 1


The had ... left verb form has nothing to do with the conditional: it is viewing the event (Marilyn leaving) from a later point in the past.

We can't tell from the excerpt when that later point was, or what significance it had. It might have been the time when "she said" whatever she said; but it might have been some other time - when the narrator thought about it, for example. It might just be "story time" - since the narration is conventionally in the past, whenever the narrator is referring to an earlier event they could use the "past perfect".

  • Thank you very much. By "Later point in the past", do you mean earlier than the past specified or after it? Because past perfect usually denotes something that happened before something else in the past. Commented Mar 27, 2022 at 13:17

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