What is the difference between if they had been and If they were:

"If Adam and Eve had been Chinese we would still be in the paradise because they would have eaten the snake instead of the apple."

Is there any meaning difference if I say?

"If Adam and Eve were Chinese would still be........................"

some more examples

If I were you I would have Vs If I had been you I would have
If you were I you would have Vs if you had been I you would have
If He were we we would have Vs If he had been we we would have


Adam and Eve are long dead, and we are therefore talking of a past counterfactual situation. We need If Adam and Eve had been Chinese (in the past), we would still be in Paradise (now), because they would have eaten... (in the past).

Similarly, with your other examples, the choice of tenses depends on the time of the counterfactual/hypothetical situations.

You resigned from your job last week.

If I had been you (last week), I would not have resigned (last week).

If I had resigned (last week), I would be very worried (now).

If I were you (now), I would be very worried about the future (now).

  • I guess the OP is to be more clarified with subjunctive mood and past simple. – Maulik V Nov 3 '14 at 6:55
  • I am one of those who believes that it is not helpful to claim that modern English has a past subjunctive form. However, as that is not relevant to this particular question, I simply did not mention the subjunctive. – tunny Nov 3 '14 at 16:08

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