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  1. If I had married someone before you graduated, would you hate me?

I have learned that the pattern "if I had done..." is usually used to talk about hypothetical situation in the past. But I'm wondering if the sentence quoted above can be used to talk about a hypothetical future.

There is the corresponding version using present perfect and "will":

  1. If I have married someone before you graduate, will you hate me?

I think the difference is just that (1)shows the speaker thinks that possibility is highly impossible. Do I get it right?

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    I think I would never understand #1 as a reference to any kind of future. Jul 14, 2022 at 13:03

2 Answers 2

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No, your first sentence will not be understood to be about the future.

This is an interesting situation where following the standard rules for changing a real conditional into an unreal one do not work.

The problem stems from English's use of present tenses to refer to the future in conditionals. In your second sentence, the real conditional, the present perfect tense has a future meaning, but it's impossible for past perfect to refer to the future.

It is possible to express this idea as an unreal conditional, just not with perfect tenses:

If I married someone before you graduated, would you hate me?

This is the unreal equivalent of the real conditional:

If I marry someone before you graduate, will you hate me?

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  • Thank you. Will your answer still apply, if I substitute "when" for " before": If I had married when you graduated, would you hate me?
    – ForOU
    Jul 15, 2022 at 3:11
  • @Robbyzhu No. "When" cannot mean "before". You'd need to change the verb to "be married", as in, "If I were married when you graduated..."
    – gotube
    Jul 15, 2022 at 15:18
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  1. does make sense if you're referring to a hypothetical future, albeit in a very convoluted manner. This way of phrasing it might be slightly easier to understand:
  1. Would you hate me if I told you I had married someone before you graduated?

As for 2., I am not sure what you're trying to imply with that sentence as present perfect does not make sense to me in this context. Simple present makes a lot more sense in this case:

  1. If I marry someone before you graduate, will you hate me?

But with the obvious change that the speaker has not married someone yet

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