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.

 

Exercise

Etiquetas

Comments

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

Hello,

''Do you know who might have visited Mr X last night''

It is used in situation where somebody really visited Mr X even though we use ''might+ present perfect'' in hyphotetical situations. Why can it be used here?

Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

The sense here is not 'maybe someone visited Mr. X' but 'someone visited Mr. X and we do not know who it was'. In other words, the 'might' here refers to possibility in the past:

Bob might have done it, Bill might have done it, Sue might have done it and Jane might have done it. But we don't know which of them actually did it.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi The LearEnglish Team
In the second conditional sentences,could I use "were" for all subjects or just for 1st or 3rd person singular subject? I saw this sentence in a book and it made me confused " if there were no water, we would die" . Could you please explain me the usage of to be in the second conditional sentences? Thank you in advance.
Best wishes,
Hien

Hello Hien,

Yes, you can use 'were' for all persons, both singular and plural - in fact, traditionally, 'were' (a past subjunctive), was considered the only correct form here. Nowadays regular past simple forms are also used in addition to these subjunctive forms.

So 'If there were no water ...' (with the subjunctive 'were') is correct, and so is 'If there was no water ...' (with past simple 'was') is, too.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I was reading comments and this sentence is confusing to me: I had money, I could have lent you some. Cause clause is from past unreal conditional but there is no ''if'' conjunction at the beginning. Is this sentence conditional? Why can we say that?

Thank you.

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