# 1: If I were a girl I would do ....

# 2: If I had been a girl I would have done ...

I still have some doubts about the one that I should use in my essay.

I mean, I am a male, and can't become a girl: this makes me think that I should use "If I were a girl I would go shopping every day". But when I come to talk about things that I could have done, as a girl, in the past (for example, my childhood as a male) I should say "If I had been a girl, I would have gone shopping every day", shouldn't I?

What I mean is: I'm now 17 and male, so if I want to talk about things that may happen from now on I should use "If I were ...", while if I have to talk about past events I need to use "If I had been ...".

Does this make any sense to you?

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Senior Member3,347
Generally, you are correct, but time isn't everything in such constructions. The degree of doubt might determine which of the two tenses, the past perfect (for most doubt), or the past (for less) should be used, irrelevant of the temporal element involved.

Should you have the opportunity, go to a good university library and consult this great reference (it's out of print now). As a matter of fact, make yourself a copy of the whole vol. IV, you won't regret it.
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Sometimes the plusperfect [past perfect tense] of imagination refers
to not any time in the past, but really to the present time: it is as
if the imaginative element inherent in the preterit [past tense] had
been raised to the second power to emphasize the impossibility or
improbability
. Thus we may say:

"If I had had the money [Jespersen: at the present moment], I should
have paid you."

where the negative element is stronger than:

"If I had the money, I should pay you."

and in the same way:

"I wish I had been rich enough to give you the money."

Otto Jespersen, A Modern English Grammar, vol. IV, p. 127
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Veteran Member11,673
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More on tenses and times from the same reference:

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The meaning of time is blotted out or indistinct in the preterit [past
tense] of imagination
, which may refer to the present time:

If I had money enough now ...

or the future:

If I had money enough tomorrow ...

If some time in the past is referred to, the plus perfect [past perfect]
is generally used
, but that tense may refer to the present time [see
my posting above. M. Hancu].

The implication of unreality is similar to the one found in cases like
"He believed that twice two was five"

Otto Jespersen, A Modern English Grammar, vol. IV, p. 114
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Proficient Speaker: Users in this role are known to maintain an excellent grasp of the English language. You can only be promoted to this role by the Englishforums team.
1. If I were a girl, I would go shopping every day. ] This expresses a general counterfactual speculation.

2. If I had been a girl, I would have gone shopping every day. ] This expresses a counterfactual speculation about the past. Perhaps you were on holiday in New York or Paris or Tokyo, for instance.

3. If I were a girl, I would have gone shopping every day. ] This also expresses a counterfactual speculation about the past. If you were a girl now, you would also have been a girl in the past: your present state implies a certain past state.

(Some members may not like the "mixed conditional in #3. Others may not like the implications of the example.)

MrP
Veteran Member12,806
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>irrelevant of the temporal element involved.
I should have said, of course, irrespective of the temporal element involved.
Proficient Speaker: Users in this role are known to maintain an excellent grasp of the English language. You can only be promoted to this role by the Englishforums team.
Thank you both Marius and Mr.P.. Now I think I got it.

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