Yep, all these men keep laughing because it looks like rape and sexual assault. If I personally would have seen that. I would have punched that dude in mouth. That dog has seen its last days. Just sayin

Why after "If" the speaker says "would have seen" and not simply the past simple "saw" ? What is the difference ?

Is it because the speaker wants to assert his words or emotions? Thank you


This is an irrealis use, what traditional grammar calls a 'subjunctive': specifically a "condition contrary to fact". The speaker did not in fact see the men laughing but speaks of what he would have done if he had seen it. If I would have seen is not acceptable in formal registers, which does not allow ordinary modal uses of will/would in if (condition) clauses; you should write:

If I personally had seen that I would have punched that dude in mouth.

But it is the standard way of expressing a past irrealis with any modal in a consequence clause, and especially in AmE colloquial speech (which this clearly is intended to represent) it is very common in condition clauses as well.

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  • Thank you so much for your reply , its so helpful but as far as I know in many grammar books we should say "If I personally saw that ..." Although I never actually saw anything ... Am I right here ? If yes then what is the difference with " Had seen" thank you again – Gamal Thomas Jan 29 '16 at 23:07
  • @GamalThomas In a counterfactual situation "If I saw" would have present irrealis reference; that is excluded by the past irrealis in the consequence clause "I would have punched". – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 29 '16 at 23:17
  • Correction: it is a standard way of expression a past irrealis for some speakers, particularly in American English. Many speakers, including me and I think most Brits, would never use "would have" in an "if" clause. – Colin Fine Jan 30 '16 at 0:32
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    @ColinFine It does seem to be less common in the BrE vernacular; though that depends somewhat on how you parse "If PRONOUN'd 'a VERBen". I suspect that many of the would haves like this we see are either tacit expansions or hypercorrections of the new subjunctive clitic 'da. ... In any case, I'll fold your observation into the answer. – StoneyB on hiatus Jan 30 '16 at 1:23

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