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.





Hello MCWSL,

In general, the condition described in the condition part of a conditional sentence happens first, but I'm afraid I don't want to make generalisations beyond that. Language didn't evolve as a logical system -- to me it sounds as if you may be trying to apply logic too strongly to linguistic forms.

Could you please write out the sentences that you are asking about rather than describing them? In addition, please don't use multiple forms (e.g. 'were making / made') within the same sentence, as they can have different meanings and so should be treated differently. Write the two sentences out separately.

If you write out the sentences you want to ask about, I think everything will be much clearer. At the very least I can be sure that I understand what you are asking about.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

The question is: are these sentences correct?

''If you were making the world a better place to live, I can conclude that you would have made it before coming here''

''If you made the world a better place to live, I can conclude that you would have made it before coming here''


Hello MCWSL,

Thank you for writing them out. They both sound a bit odd to me. When you say 'you would have made it', do you mean 'you would have achieved this (i.e. made the world a better place to live)?

What does 'before coming here' refer to? Are we now in heaven, for example? Or has the person just moved from one country to another? Understanding the situation you're talking about it will help me help you, I think.

I suppose the sentences sound strange to me because if someone had managed to improve the world and I am judging whether they have done that, then I'd probably want to focus on that as an achievement (using for example the word 'achieve') or say something about what they achieved rather than specify when ('before coming here') it happened. But perhaps you have a situation in mind where this makes sense -- I just don't know what it is.

I'm sorry to prolong this, but I can only help if I understand this somewhat complex situation.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


May I say "If you had asked me yesterday to stay with you longer, then I would have agreed." I refer that to past...

Hello ivarsps,

Yes, that is a correctly-formed third conditional sentence. Well done!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello the team,

''A matrix is said to be diagonal if all elements... are zeros''

''If I were to go to the cinema, I would be happy''

In hypothetical conditionals we use this kind of construction to show that something is extremely unlikely.

Does the construction of the first real conditional(is said to be) have some kind of particular use as ''were to'' has?

Thank you.

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,
The LearnEnglish Team


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,


The LearnEnglish Team