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If I hadn't handed him over to the police earlier today, I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.

If I hadn't handed him over to the police earlier today, I wouldn't have been able to sleep tonight.

If I didn't hand him over to the police earlier today, I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight.

Are all of these sentences grammatically correct? What are the differences in their meaning? Since we're talking about an unreal past situation in the if clause, it should be HAD, right? And since we're talking about an unreal present/extremely near future situation, shouldn't it be would in the second clause?

  • 1
    They're all stylistically appalling (not only are the first words of the third one ungrammatical, but any normal speaker would just say If I hadn't handed him over... rather than ...taken him to hand over...). And the second version is semantically problematic, since it refers to an "unreal" past situation, but in almost all credible contexts, tonight refers to a future time. – FumbleFingers Apr 20 '16 at 15:21
  • @FumbleFingers, that "Taken" in the third sentence was a typo. Of the three sentences given there, wouldn't you say the first is the most appropriate? – lekon chekon Apr 20 '16 at 20:37
  • What communicative need are you trying to address? Have you used any of these in real life and gotten feedback from the person you were talking with? Do you speak regularly in English, preferably with a native speaker (so you can hear native pronunciation) and gotten good, intuitive feedback)? Which sentence do you think you'd say in any given situation? – Alan Carmack Apr 20 '16 at 22:18
  • Have you looked up Conditional sentences in English (on Wikipedia, for instance), and read about what they mean? What effort and research have you done? – Alan Carmack Apr 20 '16 at 22:21
  • I don't really see the point of saying which of the first two is "best" (the third is still ungrammatical following your edit). The fact remains normal speakers wouldn't say If I hadn't taken him to hand him over... As to the verb you're really asking about, wouldn't have been able to is quite unlikely if you haven't yet slept tonight (but I don't think that necessarily makes it "ungrammatical"). Plus of course, it's possible the speaker might have already slept earlier tonight, and woke up later to make the statement which would then be beyond reproach. – FumbleFingers Apr 20 '16 at 23:21
1

From my point of view, sentence 1) is grammatically correct. You are mixing

the THIRD CONDITIONAL (if + Past Perfect - an activity that happened in the

past - with a Result clause containing Would + Base Form < referring to an

action that's coming in the future>.

On the contrary, I would say that the problem with sentences 2) and 3) is the

TIME EXPRESSIONS .Ex. If I hadn't handed him over to the police

yesterday morning, I wouldn't have been able to sleep last night. (Here,

you would be talking about a past condition and result - .

In sentence 3) If I didn't hand him over to the police this morning, I wouldn't

be able to sleep tonight. (second conditional). I would understand that you

aren't quite sure about handing him over and perhaps, you won't do it, so you

are thinking it over.

  • Sentence 2) would be a typical example of the regular conditional 3. – lalynacar. May 18 '16 at 22:16

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