Which sentence is correct:

  • If she hadn’t been so bad-tempered, I could have married her.

  • If she wasn't so bad-tempered, I could have married her.

In my textbook #1 is the sentence has been written, but I think there is nothing wrong with #2 as well.

4 Answers 4


Both of the sentences are grammatically correct, without much difference in meaning. If-clause in the past perfect in the first sentence indicates an unreal or imaginary thing in the past, which means that she was really bad-tempeted. On the other hand, if-clause in the past simple in the second sentence expresses the same thing but in the present, which means that she is really bad-tempeted. We can use either of the two if-clauses in such sentences depending on whether we mean a past action in if-clause or an action in the present.

Please look at a couple of sentences from Oxford Practice Grammar chapter 146 conditionals 3 by John Eastwood.

1- If Mathew was more sensible, he would have worn a suit to the interview.

2- If I didn't have all the work to do, I would have gone out for the day.


Both sentences are grammatically correct, but the first would imply the choice being further in the past than the second sentence would imply.


I think the second phrase should be:

If she wasn't so bad-tempered, I might have married her.

This seems to point to a more specific point of time in the past, compared to the first one, since simple past tense was is used.

  • Does Using 'might' in this sense make the sentence sound a bit stilted? Wasn't it better if you used 'could'?
    – A-friend
    Oct 21, 2014 at 2:16
  • A-friend, no, it willn't make the sentence stilted. You can also use here might or could. Please refer to the Oxford Practice Grammar as mentioned in my reply.
    – Khan
    Oct 22, 2014 at 8:40

I say sentence 1 convey the reason you did not marry her in the past. Sentence two is grammatically correct. You can use it, if you are trying to convey that she was bad tempered then and she she is still bad tempered now.

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