Learn English – Would have been… vs. Had been

conditionalsmeaningword-choicewould-have-been

I just saw this sentence on cnn:

Experts believe if Friday's test would have been fired on a flatter, standard trajectory, it could have threatened cities like Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago.

I expected this:

Experts believe if Friday's test had been fired on a flatter, standard trajectory, it could have threatened cities like Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago.

So what is the difference between these two sentences in terms of meaning and grammar?

Thanks in advance

Best Answer

This is an American regionalism that seems to be slowly spreading.

Here is a question/answer on it from Grammerly, which speculates that it will become widely accepted sometime in the not-too-distant future.

It's not terribly uncommon in the U.S., it's wrong in standard English, and it really annoys some people. The right way to say this would be had been, as you surmise:

Experts believe if Friday's test had been fired on a flatter, standard trajectory, it could have threatened cities like Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago.

But if you listen to Americans, you'll run into would have been fairly often, and if the speaker comes from a region where it's used, you might have a hard time convincing them that it's incorrect.