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Please read the following:

  1. I would like to come with you.
  2. I would have liked to come with you.
  3. I would like to have come with you.

Another example:

  1. I would prefer to drink coffee.
  2. I would have preferred to drink coffee.
  3. I would prefer to have drunk coffee.

I perfectly understand the first sentence in both the groups. What I would like to know is the difference between second and third sentences. Could you please explain that?

  • 1
    As far as I know "I would have liked to come with you" is a hypothetical sentence, e.g., If you were beautiful, I would have liked to come with you". It may also be used while telling a story when we use would as the past version of will. The 3rd version seems strange. – user31782 Jan 20 '15 at 10:09
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    @user31782 - I agree. It does seem strange. but it is used in books anyways. I am trying to understand if there is any difference. – Leo Jan 20 '15 at 10:28
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    Please provide the excerpt where you found your example. – F.E. Jan 20 '15 at 10:35
  • @F.E. - Actually I put this senentece into quotes and searched in google books and I got too many results. I was not reading in any particular book, but studying grammar. I tried different verbs in the same structure, still I was getting results. So I thought why would writers be using the third sentence structure over second one. – Leo Jan 20 '15 at 11:43
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The difference is EXTREMELY subtle, but in your second example:

I would have preferred to drink coffee.

This doesn't make any assumptions about what you were doing instead of drinking coffee. "We met up to go shopping, but I would have preferred to drink coffee". "We went to a park, but I would have preferred to drink coffee."

I would prefer to have drunk coffee.

This implies that I was drinking something, but it wasn't coffee. "The lady gave me a beer, but I would prefer to have drunk coffee". "All I could find was orange juice, but I would prefer to have drunk coffee."

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    +1 but what if it was: I would have preferred to have drunk coffee? – Lucian Sava Jan 20 '15 at 11:29
  • Sounds very strange, I don't think that's correct English. – Mark Jan 20 '15 at 11:32
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    It is, see the following authors here – Lucian Sava Jan 20 '15 at 11:43
  • From the article: "This phrase should invariably be followed by a present-tense infinitive–hence would have liked to go, not *would have liked to have gone, *would have liked to have read. The erroneous phrasings are very common" It's basically saying that, while not technically correct, it's commonly used by native speakers anyway. I agree with that, it sounds a bit clumsy but most native speakers don't use 100% flawless English. – Mark Jan 20 '15 at 11:47
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The difference between the two sentences is a matter of timing.

I would have liked to have come with you. At some time in the past I would have liked to have come with you. I may or may not have changed my mind since then.

I would like to have come with you. At this ime (now) I would like it if I had come with you. I may or may not have liked it at the time you came.

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