YoHf:# 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?
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.
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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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
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.)
I should have said, of course, irrespective of the temporal element involved.
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