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, how are you?

could we use " should " instead of would in conditional sentences.
for instance,

if all goes well we should be doing nice.
(talking about business relationship).
if it rains more a half hour it should start flooding.
(talking about weather).

does 'should' work here?
if so or not please explain
thanks advanced.

Hello ahmednagar,

Your sentences are all grammatically correct – yes, it is possible to use modal verbs, including 'should', in the main clause of many first conditional sentences. It is similar to using an imperative form (e.g. 'If it rains for more than half an hour, check to see if there is flooding').

You might also be interested to learn that, in a formal style, 'should' can also be used in the 'if' clause of second conditional sentences. See this part of the Cambridge Dictionary's page on Conditionals for more on this.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello once again.
i visited the page but i didn't find any explanation regarding "imperative conditional". could you explain why we use it and in which situation? does it function like imperative sentences?
for instance
break that vase I'll break your neck.
(if you break that vase I'll break your neck.)
correct me if I'm mistaken.
thanks advanced.

Hell ahmednagar,

The sentence you provide is not really an imperative form. It is rather an example of ellipsis in which the first part of the sentence 'If you' is omitted. The meaning has not changed in any way.

It is possible to use an imperative in the result clause instead of will + verb. For example:

If you break that vase, buy a new one.

The meaning here is the same as any imperative form: it is a command or instruction.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

ok thank you so much

thanks alot you have explained well.

Hello,

'If you have sent us information, be assured that we have received it'
'if I went to a friend's house, I usually took a bottle of wine'
'I will take it if I have asked at first'

Are those any kind of conditional sentences? They don't match any type above

Best wishes,
Jamal

Hello Jamal,

The types of conditionals listed here represent common forms, not the only possible forms. The rules for conditional formation are quite simple. First, the two halfs of the conditional must be logical in terms of time - the result must come after the condition in terms of time. Second, you must be consistent in terms of what you are describing - a real situation or an unreal/unlikely situation.

For more information on verbs in these kinds of clauses see this page. For more information on the use of verbs to express wishes and hypotheses see here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,

I found some unreal conditional sentences that aren't logical in terms of time(result goes before condition), but I suppose it is correct because unreal condition itself is illogical. Correct me please if I am wrong. Speaking about real conditional sentences, I agree that result must go after condition, but it seems to me in my second example(if I went to a friend's house, I usually took a bottle of wine for him) result goes before condition. Is that an exception, or I misunderstand something?

Best wishes,
Jamal

Hello Jamal,

I don't think your example breaks the 'logical rule' because the sense here is really 'if I was going to go to a friend's house'. The speaker takes the bottle of wine because they are on the way to the house. In other words, the meeting is arranged already and it is this that triggers the taking of the bottle. Without this, there is no action. Therefore the cause of the action is indeed before, not after, and this is the concept of the sentence, even if the verb form is used might suggest otherwise at first glance.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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