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

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Comments

Hello JamlMakav,

The first sentence is a zero conditional -- it's essentially a definition. Perhaps there are exceptions, but as far as I know, 'is said to be' doesn't necessarily make a conditional structure have a second or third conditional meaning.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

We use ''would +bare infinitive'' and ''was/were going to'' to show future in past. For example,

''She was going to study that year...''

I was wondering if I could use these two in hypothetical conditionals. For example,

''If you were going to cook the dinner, you would have called me''

So if I'm correct, will this mean that the future in the past is hypothetical since the conditional is hypothetical?

Thanks in advance

Hello MCWSL,

The form 'was going to' expresses a past intention. It is generally used to describe intentions which did not come to fruition or whose conclusion we do not know. For example:

He was going to study maths. [This was his intention but he did not do it / This was his intention but I don't know if he actually did it or not]

The kind of sentence you are discussing is used only in certain contexts. Specifically, if we are trying to show that there was no such intention. For example:

I was going to cook dinner.

I don't believe you.

It's true.

I don't believe you because if you were going to cook the dinner, you would have called me [and you did not call me, therefore you were not going to cook the dinner].

In other words, 'was going to' describes a potential and uncertain situation, which means it fits well in to a hypothetical context.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

 

Hello!
I've got a question about inversion in 2nd Conditional. So far, i thought one needed the phrase "were to" to make it possible.
Eg. "If he were to accept, what would you do?" --> "Were he to accept, what would you do?"

However, I 've come across this phrase recently: "Were I in your position, I would give the money."
Does this mean that "were"is enough in the if-clause to cause inversion, without it being in the phrase "were to"?
Thank you so much!
Kelly_s

Hello kelly s.

There are several ways to form the if-clause for hypothetical conditions:

If I went there...

If I were to go there...

Were I to go there...

When the verb is 'be' we do not usually repeat it ('were I to be...') unless it is a passive construction ('were to be asked...'). Instead we use simply 'were':

If I were rich...

Were I to be rich...

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Not to forget, I wanted to ask you about the passive construction in the 2nd Conditional which you talked about. Can we use inversion there or does it require "were to" to sound good?
For example, can we say: "Were I asked this question, I would tell the truth."
Or, is the following the only correct option:" Were I to be asked this question, I would tell the truth."

Once again, thank you very much for your time!
Kelly S.

Hello Kelly S,

Both 'Were I asked...' and 'Were I to be asked...' are possible here. This construction can be used with other passive forms:

Were he given the chance...

Were he to be given the chance...

The form with 'to' is more common, I would say, though I do not have any data on this.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks again!!

Best Wishes,
Kelly S.

Thank you very much for you quick reply!

I have one more question, related to inversion. It has to do with the use of "as" before an auxiliary to show that the same is true for somebody else.
Eg. Italy produces excellent wines, as does Spain.
She is tall, as is her mother.

Is inversion always required here or is it optional?
That is, can we also say:
Italy produces excellent wines, as Spain does.
She is tall, as her mother is.

Thank you very much!!
Kelly S.

Hello Kelly S.

Both versions (with and without inversion) are correct. I think the version with inversion is more common but neither is incorrect.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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