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Context: I am 30 years old and single. I do not have any children. I regret that I won't have a daughter aged 18 when I become 38.

Then, is this sentence correct:

If I had gotten married 10 years ago, my daughter would have been 18 years old, eight years from now.

To form this sentence, I used third conditional. But as far as I know, we use third conditional for wishes in the past. But my sentence has to do with future and past.

  • Open conditional: "If Tom got married 10 years ago, then eight years from now, his daughter will be 18 years old." Remote conditional, where the speaker doubts that Tom actually got married: "If Tom had gotten married 10 years ago, then eight years from now, his daughter would be 18 years old." If an attempt is made to make the "then Q" side to be doubly remote, then the sentence might perhaps look like something like this: "If Tom had gotten married 10 years ago, then eight years from now, his daughter would have been 18 years old." – F.E. Apr 16 '15 at 0:24
  • As another poster had commented, you might be able to express the "regret" by using "if only"; and if we then convert from 3rd person to 1st person: "If only I had gotten married 10 years ago, then eight years from now, my daughter would [ be / have been ] 18 years old." – F.E. Apr 16 '15 at 0:39
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Yes, that sentence is certainly understandable.

It's a little awkward, but I think it's mostly an awkward phrasing because it's a bit of an awkward thought.

This isn't related to tense, but if I were to change something about that sentence, it would actually be the assumption that getting married equals having a daughter. I would instead say:

If I had had a daughter ten years ago, then she would be eighteen eight years from now.

or, since being single is part of the regret

If I had gotten married and had a daughter ten years ago, then she would be eighteen eight years from now.

However, none of these sentences actually capture any of the regret you're trying to express. They just state a mathematical fact. Maybe something more like:

If only I had gotten married ten years ago, then I could have had a daughter who would be eighteen eight years from now.

'If only' expresses regret, saying that you wish that this other situation had happened. 'I could have had' indicates a missed opportunity for something that you would have liked to have, but now can't.

  • I don't like the option where "could have had" refers to a future event. – Tyler James Young Apr 15 '15 at 23:24
  • @TylerJamesYoung Would you prefer "could have now been going to have"? Perhaps you have a less convoluted alternative in mind? Perhaps simply "could have" would work. The "could" is because I didn't include having a daughter in the conditional, otherwise you could replace it with "would" (avoiding the morbid possibility of her not surviving for 18 years). – DCShannon Apr 15 '15 at 23:52
  • @TylerJamesYoung Or maybe "could have a daughter who would be eighteen eight years from now"? – DCShannon Apr 15 '15 at 23:54
  • @TylerJamesYoung There, I think that's probably better. Thanks for pointing that out. – DCShannon Apr 15 '15 at 23:56
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I think part of the problem here is that you are trying to pack a lot of information into one sentence -- the classic undergrad writer problem (at least in my experience 15 or so years ago).

Break this up into smaller sentences.

I regret that I did not get married and begin to have children ten years ago. If I had, I might have had a daughter who will reach the age of eighteen by the time I am thirty-eight.

I would also agree with the other responder that the content of the regret itself is somewhat awkward, since it regrets with such surety something that is infamously unreliable (in terms of fertility, gender and timing). My own half-joking wisdom here is that, if one wants a daughter that bad, he or she is for sure getting a son. Apologies, though, that's not what you're asking.

EDIT: Improved the second suggested sentence.

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The use of 'would have been' to indicate the future seems awkward - to me that tense implies what state she would be in now, were the conditional true. So you could say '[if I had had a daughter] she would now be only eight years short of eighteen', but I can't make 'would have been 18' work save to mean that had the conditional happened, she would now be 18 (making the 'eight years from now' grate).

I would say something like:

If only I had got married and had a daughter ten years ago: had I done so, she would be eighteen in eight years' time.

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