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  1. If I had left this job, I would have wanted you to come with me.
  2. If I were to have left this job, I would have wanted you to come with me.

I think, though both of them indicate the possibility of past, meanings of both are not same. I would like to know the differences between them.

Thanks!

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  • You say you think the meanings are different. Can you explain what two different meanings are involved? FWIW I think they mean exactly the same thing, but more importantly I can't actually think of more than one meaning which could feasibly apply. Feb 25, 2016 at 17:14
  • ...okay, there's the possibility of an optional "nuance" - but applies to both versions equally. By stressing the auxiliary verb had or were one can give greater emphasis to the fact that I definitely didn't leave the job. (I assume it's just an oversight that you switched from this job to that job.) Feb 25, 2016 at 17:19
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    Possible duplicate of If you were to have asked Feb 26, 2016 at 0:25
  • I think both are about an impossible past. "If I had left..." implies "but I didn't". "If I were to..." is in the subjunctive mood, which suggests an unreal situation. Feb 26, 2016 at 11:41
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    I believe the phrase "were to have" is temporally different from "had". To me it implies a possible future where the subject of the sentence is in the past. This is closer to the meaning of "If I were to (x)" and less like "if I had (x)".
    – JamesFaix
    Mar 4, 2016 at 1:22

1 Answer 1

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In some sense the second option is the explicit counter-factual form, where just "If I were to [perfect infinitive]" alone is enough to convey that the condition never occurred. The first option means the same thing because of the subjunctive "would [perfect infinitive]" in the conclusion of the sentence. There is also the implicit assumption that a person would know whether or not he had left a job, and hence would only say "If I had left this job" if he was stating a counter-factual. However, consider the following scenario where there is a difference:

If I had offended you the last time, please forgive me.

In this case the speaker/writer implies that he/she does not know whether he/she had offended the other party or not. And indeed for that same reason the counter-factual subjunctive in the condition would be incorrect:

(WRONG) If I were to have offended you the last time, ...

However, the present subjunctive can be used for a possibility of a choice that might be taken:

If you help me, I would be ever so grateful.

If you were to help me, I would be ever so grateful.

But the present subjunctive should not be used in a conditional sentence to denote something that cannot be chosen:

If I make an accidental mistake, please let me know.

(WRONG) If I were to make an accidental mistake, please let me know.

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