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.





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Eventually all credit goes to ELT members.


PETER M, you told me that "The negative of 'had to' is 'didn't have to', not '*hadn't to" (

Do I have to understand that the clauses of the exercise on this page like "if i hadn't eaten...; if you hadn't taken..." have to be writen like " If I didn't have eaten...; If you didn't have taken..." or something like this?
If not; if the clauses are well writen here, can you tell my why the clause "If he hadn't to work he wouldn't be miserable" is not good?

Thanks for your help


Hello Nuras,

There is a distinction between the form you quoted on the other page, which is 'have to + infinitive' (as in 'I had to go' and 'I didn't have to go'), and the form you are quoting here, which is 'have' used as an auxiliary verb to make a perfective form (as in 'have + past participle or 'modal verb + have'). The examples on this page are of 'have' used as an auxiliary, which is a different use and has a different negative form.

He had to go > He didn't have to go (not *'He hadn't to go')


He had gone > He hadn't gone (not *'He didn't have gone')

He must have gone > I mustn't have gone (not *'He must don't have gone')

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

I think that this kind of exercises don't show the right level of knowledge, and I suggest you don to better exercises so that when I finish the exercises I can pass an exam in every situation.

Hello Fifademo,

I'm sorry that you find these exercises unsatisfactory. Our intention is for you to be able to test yourself on the basic information presented on the page, not to provide comprehensive practice or to prepare you for an exam. In fact, every exam is different, so it's difficult to imagine a set of exercises that would prepare you for every exam you could encounter.

If you're concerned about exams, I'd suggest you work on preparing yoursel for that specific exam. For example, if you're going to take the IELTS, be sure to take a look at our IELTS section.

Good luck!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

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?



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,



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.....?