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 Kirk could you please explain these conditionals.
If I were you, I would have not done this.
If i were you, I would not do this.

Hello Asgharkhan8,

The second sentence is in the second conditional and is a common way of giving advice. The first sentence is a mixed conditional and speaks about an imaginary or unreal past situation. Please note the word order is slightly incorrect: it should be 'I would not have done'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

With regard to the imaginary situation, the structure " were + subject + to inf" = " if + subject + were"

Eg. (1) Were the election to be held today, the liberals would lose = (2) If the election were held today....

My question is: Do both the above have the same meaning as:
Sentence(3) " If the election were TO BE held today...."
Sentence (4)" Were the election held today..."

The reason I think (3) has the same meaning as (1) is because I think sentence (1) is just an inversion of (3) where "were" is put at the beginning of the sentence. The same with (4) and (2 ) where (4) is the inversion of (2)

If this is correct, does it mean all 4 sentences have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably? If so, why don't we just use either (2) or (4) as they are shorter?
thank you.

Hello Widescreen,

Yes, these are alternative forms of what is sometimes called the second conditional:

If I lived in Paris...

Were I to live in Paris...

The second form is a more formal and literary construction, and is rarer. It also has a more limited meaning. Both forms can be used for hypothetical and unlikely but possible events. However, we cannot use the second structure for impossible events:

If I won the lottery, I'd buy a new house - fine

Were I to win the lottery, I'd buy a new house - fine

If I had two heads, I'd talk to myself - fine

Were I to have two heads, I'd talk to myself - incorrect as it is an impossible situation


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your clarification Peter. Just one more thing if you could please confirm:
If I lived in Paris = Were I live in Paris?
Were I to live in Paris = If I were to live in Paris?

thank you.

Hello Widescreen,

There are three variants possible here:

If I lived in Paris

If I were to live in Paris

Were I to live in Paris

The other sentence is not grammatically correct.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I have this sentence " Everything was quiet except for the sound of birds singing."
If I rewrite this using "But for", which of the followings is correct please ?
1. But for the sound of bird singing, everything was quiet
2. But for the sound of bird singing, everything would have been quiet

I think sentence 1 is wrong and sentence 2 is correct because the original sentence uses past tense so the rewritten sentence must be an unreal past condition (type 3).

Hence, the main clause should be "would + present perfect" and " but for" here is equal to " if it had not been for"

Also I think sentence 1 is wrong because Main clause lacks of modal verb " would" which is part of the conditional sentence.

Kindly clarify this point. Thank you.

thank you

Hello Widescreen,

'But for' can have a hypothetical meaning ('if not for'), as in the second sentence, but it can also have a 'real' meaning ('apart from'), as in the first example. Both are possible and both are correct.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Is this sentence correct or not?
Once you get entered in this stuff, it would become difficult to come out of it.
Stuff can be like bad activities