In the following example

If I hadn't have been too nice, I would still have my wallet.

is past past perfect a possible structure? If so, shouldn't it be "hadn't had been"?

  • It's not grammatical. Please check out English Language Learners. – curiousdannii Jun 3 '16 at 10:55
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    It is not technically grammatical since "If I hadn't been too nice, I would still have my wallet." has the same meaning. However, as a native English speaker, I can say with almost certainty that this sentence wouldn't even cause most listeners to pause and question the meaning. To me, it sounds more like a dialect or a particular manner of speaking than something ungrammatical. – G-Cam Jun 3 '16 at 19:54

I guess that you are thinking about backshifting because you are using a hypothetical conditional.

Here is a summary of the backshifting rules: note that past perfect backshifts to... past perfect, so there is no need for a past past perfect. The correct sentence is therefore

If I hadn't been too nice, I would still have my wallet.

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  • Thank you @JavaLatte. I asked it from linguistic ex, cause I wanted them to structurally consider it and show me whether such structure can be a possible structure happening in English. But they just sent it here. The source formed this is ell.stackexchange.com/questions/91547/… AlanCarmack answer. – user33000 Jun 3 '16 at 11:48
  • I searched for the structure. Many experts believe it is an erro nativers make. – user33000 Jun 3 '16 at 12:10
  • I cannot mark it as accepted. As I hadn't signed up there when I submitted it. I'd love to mark it,though :(( – user33000 Jun 3 '16 at 12:13

In his description of time and tense in English, McCawley argues that multiple levels of perfects are indeed possible. Since some perfects are logically past tenses embedded within past tenses, we get past within a past within a past ... as a consequence of embedding past tense clauses within past tense clauses. The argument is given on page 225 of The Syntactic Phenomena of English. However, McCawley proposes, since the morphological system of English does not allow multiple perfects in the auxiliaries of a single surface clause, all but one perfect "have" markers are deleted.

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