Can you think of an example of a time in your life when if you had done something a little differently, life would have been a little bit better? Of course you can. But how do you express that in English? In this lesson, I will teach you how to use the structure “if I had” for when we want to give an excuse for not doing something or an explanation for how we would have done things differently. Don’t wait until tomorrow to say “If I had known that I would learn so much, I would have watched this lesson.” Do it now! Then, practice your new knowledge by doing the quiz, and you’ll never get into trouble again!


Hello, guys. Welcome back to Today, I’m doing a little lesson on “if I had known”. So this is a structure talking about something that happened in the past that we would have done differently if we had known something, if we had more knowledge at that time. It’s useful in a work as well as in a social context. And I’m going to be looking at examples of different verbs that we can use with this phrase “if I had known”. Okay? Let’s get started.

Well, this is what Barry said, okay? So you notice that the speech marks — this is the actual words of my friend Barry. “If I had known that Chelsea were playing at home, I would have gone to seen them.” Okay? “If I had known that Chelsea” — so he’s here; he’s in the present, and he’s looking back to a point in the past, and he’s saying if at this point here he had known that Chelsea, a football team, were playing at home, at Stamford Bridge, he would have gone there. But at the time, he did not know, so he didn’t. He did something else. Okay? “If I had known, I would’ve done something else.” So at that time, Barry did not know that Chelsea were playing at home, so he made a different decision.

Now, the form that this takes — we have “if” plus our subject. In this case, “I”, it’s Barry, the subject, “had” plus past participle. Here, it’s “known”, okay? But we can use lots of other past participles with this phrase, the “had” and then “known” thing.

Okay. So what do we use it for? Well, it’s used to talk about how a decision would have been different in the past. So I’m sure you can all think of examples of times in your life where if you had done something a little different, life would have maybe been a little bit better. Okay? My top tip for you — you want to try to lead a life with no regrets, okay? So make lots of good decisions. Don’t worry, okay? Because it’s easier to think about what we didn’t do than what we did do. So take action. Get involved.

Now, here are some past participle forms of verbs that are good to use with this phrase. So let’s go. Let’s do some together. “If I had seen Barry, I would’ve given him his ticket.” Okay? So “if I had” — past participle — “seen” — and then the rest of the phrase — “Barry, I would have done this.” Okay? “If I had caught the ball, we would have won the cricket match.” Okay? So same structure again. “If I had” and then “would have”. “If I had caught the ball, we would have won the game.” “If I had gone to the stadium, I would have seen my favourite player.” Okay? So “seen”, again, is in the past tense. “Invited.” “If I had invited more friends to my party, we would’ve had a brilliant night.” Okay? “If I had” in the first part of the sentence, and then “would have” in the second. “If I had invited more friends to my party, we would’ve had a better night.” Good. “Moved.” “If I had moved to Tokyo, I would have had a very different life.” Okay? So this works in two parts: “if I had”, and then our little verb, and then the result — what would have been different. Okay? Not too complicated.

Now, “been” is an interesting one because we can use it with different emotional states. So “If I had been kinder to Billy, he might have been happier.” Okay? Or “If I had been more bold, I might have gone to New York.” Okay? Again, these two parts of the sentence. “If I had spoken” — okay, so it’s in the past tense — “If I said spoken to my friend, he would have come to the football match. Okay? We could use “decided” here for Barry. “If Barry had decided to read the newspaper in the morning, he would have gone to the football match.” “Done.” “If I had done my homework, I would have done better in my test.” Okay? So we’re here — we’re in the present, but we’re looking back at the past. If there I had done more homework, okay, we’d have a different outcome — different result — the result is better in the test.

And last one. “If I had taken the quiz, I would have learnt more in this lesson.” Okay, folks? I would encourage you now to log on to if you’re not already there and have a go at doing the quiz. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel, and if you do want a little bit of extra help, why not look onto the Facebook page, Exquisite English.



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