Conditionals 2

 

Third conditionals and mixed conditionals

Conditionals are sentences with two clauses – an ‘if clause and a main clause – that are closely related. Conditional sentences are often divided into different types.

Third conditional

Third conditional sentences describe the past. They describe something that didn’t happen.

  • If I’d studied harder at school I would have gone to university.

He didn’t study very hard and he didn’t go to university.

  • We wouldn’t have got lost if you hadn’t given me the wrong directions.

She wasn't given the correct directions and she didn't find her way.

  • She might have finished the exam if she’d had more time.

She didn't finish the exam and she didn't have more time.

In third conditional sentences, the structure is usually if + past perfect and would + perfect infinitive (e.g. have done). It’s not important which clause comes first.

Notice that other modal verbs can be used instead of ‘would’ (e.g. ‘could’, ‘might’ ‘may’)

Mixed conditionals

In mixed conditional sentences the time in the ‘if’ clause is not the same as the time in the main clause. There can be various combinations.

  • If he’d gone to university he might have a better job.

He didn’t go to university (past)
He doesn’t have a very good job. (present)
This sentence shows the present consequences of a past action.

  • If I’d won the competition I’d be going to Florida next week.

She didn’t win the competition (past)
She isn’t going to Florida (future)
This sentence shows the future consequences of a past action.

  • If he didn’t have to work tomorrow he wouldn’t be so miserable today.

He has to work tomorrow (future)
He’s miserable. (present)
This sentence shows the present consequence of a future event.

 

Exercise

Comments

Hello The LearnEnglish Team,

About the use of comma to separate the if-clause and the main clause. I've seen in other sites that we always use comma to do this if we use the if-clause first, but in some examples in that section I haven't seen this, like in "If I’d studied harder at school I would have gone to university." and "If he’d gone to university he might have a better job.". So, is the comma optional or not?

Thanks!

Carlos.

Hello chfurlan,

As with much (though not all) punctuation, there is a lot of variance in terms of what is considered acceptable. There is no absolute rule that commas must be used in conditionals, and they can seem out of place where the sentence does not have a natural break, such as when there is an imperative form in the result clause:

If you get lost in the town then ask for some help.

Although you can find sources which provide very hard and inflexible rules for the use of commas in conditional sentences, I don't feel that these reflect English as it is used today. My advice would be to say the sentence to yourself and if it feels natural to put a pause in the sentence when you say it, then a comma is a good idea - as in this sentence!

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir what does it mean...if i won a lottery,i would buy a big house.....?what basically it is showing.....present unreal or future and why.....?

Hi
First of all, thanks a lot for such a great material.
I was wondering if this is correct:
If he’d gone to university he could have had a better job.

Basically I got in doubt because I think, in the first example above, the second part of the conditional sentence should imply some kind of an unreal sense; because he doesn't have a better job now. But I don't get that unreal sense by using "might".

Thanks in advance

Hi Mozhdeh,

Yes, that sentence is fine. You know the situation is unreal from the first part of the sentence and both 'could' and 'might' also give a sense of something unreal, but with slightly different emphasis.

Best wishes,

Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, can you tell about difference between "should be" and "must be"
Are they the same or not, in what sentences we use should be and must be
thanks again for great cooperation

Hi, i am new here. Thanks for providing such a great learning platform.
Sir I have a little confusion and wish you to resolve it..
Above, in last sentence you have used past simple in if clause.
Could we use present simple instead of using past simple.

Thank you in advance

Hi Syed sami ul haq,

It is possible to use the present simple in the if-clause, but the meaning is then changed. We use [if + present... (then) will + verb] for likely or real events, and [if + past... (then) would + verb] for unlikely or unreal events.

You can find more information on these types of conditional sentences, sometimes called first and second conditional forms, on this page.

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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