Do you know how to use third and mixed conditionals?

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.



Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


I need to know are mixed conditionals gramatically right? Can these sentences that mentioned above (mixed ones) be used officially ?
Thanks in advance

Hi Ganjina,

Some conditionals, e.g. first and third, cannot normally be mixed (e.g. If he goes shopping, he would have spent all his money), but the sentences above are correct.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

While expressing conditions for future, you need to see if the fulfillment of the condition is likely. If so, the condition is in present indefinite and the result of the fulfillment of that condition starts with 'will'. e.g. If I get a day off tomorrow, I'll go to the cinema. Whereas if the condition is purely imaginary or hypothetical whose fulfillment seems unlikely for the moment, the condition is in past indefinite and the result of its fulfillment starts with 'would'. e.g. 1.If I had wings, I would fly to you; 2. What would you do if a ghost appeared here? In your second example, the condition that is mentioned is hypothetical because it never snows in August in India.

hello sir, i have a doubt in the following sentence.
In January: If it snows tomorrow I’ll go skiing. It might snow tomorrow.
    In August: If it snowed tomorrow I’d go skiing. It almost certainly won’t snow tomorrow.

in the second sentence, if it snowed tomorrow.....
here, verb is in second form, i.e. past form.
then, how does it indicate future time/action.
can we join future time phrase such as tomorrow after verb past form (it snowed tomorrow).
please clarify.... Thank you....

Hello Krishna,
This is a strange form, isn't it?  The answer is that the 'past form' in English isn't really a past form, but rather a form of the verb which is often used to talk about the past, but which can be used in other ways too.  The future meaning in some conditional sentences is one way, but there are others.  For example, we can use the past form of 'will' - 'would' - to indicate politeness:
'Will you come this way?'
'Would you come this way?' [more polite]
There have been many attempts to find a better name for this form, a name which does not suggest it is only used for past time meaning.  That's why many grammar books today use the term 'second form (of the verb)' instead of 'past form'.  For the same reason these books prefer to use the term 'first form' instead of 'present form'.
I hope that helps to clarify it for you.  Thank you for an interesting question!
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team