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.






you mentioned above that "Third conditional sentences describe the past. They describe something that didn’t happen.". I would like to seek your clarification regarding this, i.e. does the third conditional describe something that factually did not happen (that is, we know for certain), or does it describe something that the speaker/author believes didn't happen (that is a believe, unverified fact)? Or does the third conditional cover both scenarios which I've described above?



Hi Timothy555,

The speaker believes that the situation did not happen but of course they may be mistaken. For example:

If she had passed her exam she would have started university.

DIdn't you hear? She did pass it in the end.

Oh, I didn't know that. She must have just decided university wasn't for her, then.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your response to my query above. I have some further questions regarding conditionals.

- I read elsewhere that conditional sentences should be punctuated with a "comma" when the if-clause is at the beginning of the sentence. But this doesn't seem to be the case with some of your examples, such as "If it snowed tomorrow I’d go skiing". May I know if this punctuation rule which I've mentioned is something that is "set in stone"?

- Also, am I right to say that the second conditional is used to talk about unreal/hypothetical situations, not just in the present but also in the future? quoting your example "If it snowed tomorrow I’d go skiing", I assumed that the second conditional would apply to future unreal/unlikely-to-happen situations, hence your use of "tomorrow".

- Lastly, may I know if there is any difference between the subjunctive mood and conditionals?



I'd finished the lesson, and I'd like to know if I'm right and if I got it with this examples:
- They wouldn't have had hangover if They hadn't drank too much
- If I had eaten that hamburguer, I wouldn´t have been hungry.
I'll appreciate your comments.
Best regards,

Hello felipeur,

Those are almost correct but have a couple of spelling errors. The correct sentences would be:


They wouldn't have had a hangover if they hadn't drunk too much.

If I had eaten that hamburger, I wouldn´t have been hungry.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team


''If John is dead, Jack has been dead for weeks''(If the if-clause is true, Jack was dead before John's death''

''If John has come to the town, he has failed the exams''(again the same thing as above)

Logically the actions in either if clause happen before the actions of either result clause, but it somehow satisfy the rule, which is ''condition always happens first.'' Could you explain this?

Thank you

Hello MCWSL,

You are misinterpreting the result clause here. The speaker is really saying in each case '...then I can conclude that...' The sentence describes the speaker's interpretation of the current state of affairs, not a past action in isolation. Therefore the result (the speaker's conclusion) does not come before the condition.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for the answer, Peter,

''If you were making / were going to make / made the world better place to live, you would have made it before''

Only ''were going to make'' makes sense because it satisfies the rule. Is it because of that we describe actions, not states? I could add '...then I can conclude that...' in the sentence; for example, ''If you made / were making the world better place to live, then I can conclude you would have made it before.'' Would then it make sense?

Thank you in advance

Hello MCWSL,

We're happy to help you with specific questions about English. This comment uses three different verb forms rather than a specific one, which greatly complicates explaining things.

Perhaps I've also misunderstood your question, but it also seems to be more about logic, a domain of philosophy, than language. I'm afraid that is beyond the scope of what we do here -- though please correct me if I've misunderstood you.

In any case, could you please simplify your question so that we help you? Please keep all of this in mind for any future comments you make as well. Thanks in advance.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk,
In the two sentences posted above ''If John is dead, Jack has been dead for weeks'' or ''If John has come to the town, he has failed the exams'' I thought the condition was in present and the result was in the past meaning it doesn't satisfy the rule ''condition comes first'' But the meaning here as Peter's said is ''therefore I can conclude that.'' Thus I could say a condition must happen first so that the result either can happen or can have happened. (Correct me if I'm wrong)
So would the two sentences below be correct if I added after the comma this: ''therefore I can conclude that'' ?
If you were making / made the world a better place to live, you would have made it before coming here.
If they stand alone, these two sentences are incorrect since they don't satisfy the rule.
Thank you