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 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’)
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.