"It didn't happen the way I had thought it would have happened."

So, I used Past Perfect in the second part of the sentence to specify that the thought process had occurred before the actual action was carried out. Hoewever, I am unsure whether that's the appropriate way of using it, especially with the last part of the sentence. I attempted to use Future in the Past, but it gets confusing when I try to use it in tandem with Past Perfect. Should I have just written "...it would happen" instead?

Either way, how badly did I mess up? And how does one go about tackling such sentences?

2 Answers 2


Your sentence is correct and does mean what you want.

But complex mixes of tenses are hard to understand (as you have discovered) They are hard for native speakers too! So we try to avoid them for the sake of clarity. You could rephase:

I thought it would have happened differently.

Your sentence is also confusing because you don't provide much context You use "it" and you don't say what you think would happen

I thought Argentina would beat Australia easily. But the match didn't happen that way.

And you'll notice that there is no need for "future in the past" in that last example.


Your sentence isn't quite correct. [ "Would have" + past participle ] is an unreal construction, and implies some unreal condition, but you're just expressing your past thought about the future, which doesn't require unreal grammar:

It didn't happen the way I had thought it was going to (happen).
It didn't happen the way I had thought it would (happen).

This expresses the future with "be going to" or "will", and the past with the past forms of those --> "was" or "would". Your thought in the past happened to be incorrect, but we don't need unreal grammar to express that. It's enough to say what we thought in the past.

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