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.

 

Exercise

Language level

Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

Dear Kirk and Peter,

I am wondering these sentences below using WOULD HAVE BEEN are correct or not.

'However, from the 9th February for two weeks is not convenient for us as we are away. I know this would have been your half term break but is unfortunate perhaps you can suggest some alternative dates later on. '

I would write 'I know this is your half term break' instead of using WOULD HAVE BEEN, because the half term won't change whether he could make it or not on that day. Or is there any other meaning?

Hello Momonoki,

It is possible to use 'would have been' the action changes and what 'would have been' is no longer true. For example, if I ask someone to work during their holiday then I can say 'I know it would have been your holiday' because coming in to work stops it from being a holiday. However, with your example I cannot tell if this would be the case as I do not know the full context.

Please note that we do not generally correct sentneces like this. We're happy to answer questions relating to our own materials or questions about specific language points, but we don't check and correct users' emails and so on.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi..Consider a situation..

A mother is asking her son

"If you don't come home, I will kill you"

here killing her son is hypothetical. Can we use 'would' instead of 'will' ?

"If you don't come home, I would kill you"

which one is correct?
Thank you

Hi wisefool

Using 'would' in that situation would not be grammatically correct in standard British or American English. If you changed 'don't' to 'didn't', however, then 'would' would be appropriate instead of 'will'. See Conditionals 1 for more on these two forms (first and second conditional).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi. Does it mean that the tense in both the clauses should be same?
Since 'don't' is in simple present then it should be 'will'.
if we change it to 'didn't' which is in past tense, then the verb in the second clause should be 'wouldn't' which is also the past form. Is my deduction right? sir.
Thank you Kirk

Hi wisefool

Yes, that's right: 'don't' and 'will' work together, or 'didn't' and 'wouldn't'.

Best wishes

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please help me?
In this country, the rain falls/pours mostly near the coast.
In the last sentence, can we use either word? If so, is there a difference?
Some teachers say that "pour" must be "pour down", what is correct?
In this country, the rain (falls - pours) mostly near the coast.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

'Falls' is the normal word here. We use 'pours' to describe rainfall which is heavier than what is normal. Since your sentence is talking about what is normal or typical, 'pours' would not really fit.

You can use both 'pours' and 'pours down' with, I think, no change in meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teachers,
Happy New Year 2019. Wish U all a blessful new year.

I would like to ask about this sentence:

"If the transportation is lower, the price of the merchandise will obviously become less expensive and more people could afford it"

My questions are :
1. I want to clarify this: did this sentence use "..could afford.." (past tense) instead of "..can afford.." to suggest less certainty?

2. The sentence uses both "..will obviously..." ( in the middle of the sentence) and also "..could afford.." (the last part of the sentence). I am not sure if using two different tenses like this in a sentence is correct? or should I better change "..will obviously.." (present tense) to "..would obviously..." (past) to synchronize it with the "..could afford.." (past)?
A friend of mine who is a native speaker said to me that I don't have to. But why?

Please help. Thank you.

Hello jiyi

Thank you -- we also wish you a happy 2019! Although I wouldn't say this sentence is incorrect, I think it would be clearer if it were changed to one of the following:

  1. If the cost of transportation were lower, the merchandise would obviously become less expensive and more people could afford it.
  2. If the cost of transportation is lower, the merchandise will obviously become less expensive and more people will be able to afford it.

I hope this helps you.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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