Modal verb · tenses · Verb

Feeling Regrets? – Modal Perfect Tense.

It’s been a while since we talked about tenses. I have a beautiful tense for you to sink your teeth into:  The modal perfect tense.

No need to panic, although this subject is suitable for more advanced learners of English.

Perfect Tense with Would

I’d like to talk especially about perfect tenses with would.

Here are some examples:

I would have liked to be at your party, but I had to study for an exam.

She would have given you the money, but she’s already left.

It would have been a perfect day for a picnic, but for a mild shower around noon.

regretsOops, shouldn’t have eaten that whole salmon

What does this tense express?

That something could have been, but it wasn’t. Or something could have happened, but it didn’t.

How is this tense made?

Use: would + have + V3 (or the third form of the verb.)

In case you need guidance for the third form of the irregular verbs, I’ve put up a list here:

Note: Do not use “has.” You cannot use “has” after would (or any other modal).

The Modal Perfect in Conditionals

You can also use modal perfect in conditional sentences. Conditionals are a type of sentence with a condition, usually in the form of “what if.” If the condition is met, a certain thing will happen. In other words, if A is true, B will happen.

Here are some examples of conditionals with would:

1 The car wouldn’t have broken down, if he had taken care of it better.

2 She would have been rich by now, if she had invested her money wisely.

3 If you’d gone to bed on time yesterday, I wouldn’t have had to call you three times before you opened your eyes.

Conditionals without Using If

If you don’t want to use “if” you can also write your sentence like this:

In the first example:

1b The car wouldn’t have broken down, had he taken care of it better.

Or 2b: She would have been rich by now, had she invested her money wisely.

And 3b: Had you gone to bed on time yesterday, I wouldn’t have had to call you three times before you opened your eyes.

Note: Omitting (= leaving it out) “if” from your conditional sentence means you should adjust the word order of your sentence. Look carefully at the above examples.

The formula for the conditional sentences goes like this:

If + past perfect, modal perfect.

Or if you break it down even more:

If + had + V3, would + have + V3.

It all sounds a bit technical, I know, but if you read many examples, you will soon find yourself be able to use this tense comfortably.

If you don’t mind, we’ll leave the explanation of past perfect for another article!


Here’s an exercise to challenge your skills:

Decide which of the following sentences are modal perfect sentences, and which are conditional sentences.

1 If you hadn’t forgotten to water the plants while we were on holiday, I’m sure some of them would have survived.

2 But for a few spelling mistakes, this essay would have gotten full points.

3 I would have called you yesterday, but my phone fell into the toilet bowl.

4 They would have been able to afford buying that house, had they put aside some more money in the past ten years.

5 By now, she would have been able to call herself an expert on child psychology, but she never actually did any research on children.

6 If we’d collaborated better, we would have had a stronger position to negotiate with the management.

7 We’d have had something to snack on during the hike if you hadn’t stored the chocolate in the glove compartment.

8 I would have loved to buy those shoes, but my credit card has maxed out.

9 I’d gladly have lent you those books, but I’m still waiting for you to return me my Complete Shakespeare.

10 Sean wouldn’t have missed his train had he watched the clock while he was busy chatting.


For the answers: scroll down.








1 modal perfect

2 modal perfect

3 modal perfect

4 conditional

5 modal perfect

6 conditional

7 conditional

8 modal perfect

9 modal perfect

10 conditional

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