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Recently, I came across a sentence starting with Would that. By searching over ELL stackexchange I found here that would that is an obsolete way of saying if this was true. Now what came to my mind is that we sometimes start a sentence with had to mean the same thing, e.g.

Had I been a millionaire.

My question is can we use the following types of constructions:

  1. Had that I were a millionaire.
  2. Had it been that I were a millionaire

Does both of them convey the same meaning?

1 Answer 1

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No. Start by removing the inversion: "Had I been a millionaire" becomes "(If) I had been a millionaire". "Had that I were a millionaire" would become something like "(If) I had were a millionaire", which doesn't make any good sense. For a conditional phrase beginning with "had", you need to start with a good phrase in the past perfect, and then move the "had" out front. More examples:

"If I had gone to school" => "Had I gone to school,"

"If I had thought it was a good idea" => "Had I thought it was a good idea,"

But "had been" is probably the most common verb to use with this construct.

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  • Is this sentence correct: "Had it been that I were a millionaire"?
    – user31782
    Jun 15, 2015 at 15:33
  • @user31782 a little awkward in my opinion, but valid.
    – hobbs
    Jun 15, 2015 at 15:35
  • I've edited my question. Now could you explain in a little detail why it is awkward?
    – user31782
    Jun 15, 2015 at 15:37
  • @user31782 because it uses more words than "had I been a millionaire" which says the same thing in a less complicated way.
    – hobbs
    Jun 15, 2015 at 15:39
  • I am not saying "had I been a millionaire", I am saying for "If it had been that I were a millionaire".
    – user31782
    Jun 23, 2015 at 13:42

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