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

Hi, Thank you, sir!
I was told that I should use this structure for the imaginary past situation:
These people wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work if it had not been for the addition of the movie theater.
So what is the difference between it and"These people wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work if it weren’t for the addition of the movie theater."

Hi MortazaAyabenzer,

 

Both sentences are possible.

 

If you use the form if it had not been for then the condition is rooted in the past. The addition of the movie theatre was a past event. There may be other events which provide opportunities today, but at that time the addition of the movie theatre was the only thing that gave opportunity.

If you use the form if it weren’t for then you show that the condition is something which is a generally true. It was true in the past and it is still true now.

 

You can see the difference more clearly in these examples:

I wouldn't have been able to cope if she hadn't helped me.

I wouldn't have been able to cope if she weren't so helpful.

In the first sentence (hadn't helped) her help is one action at a particular time in the past. In the second sentence (weren't so helpful), she is generally helpful - now as much as then.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Mr Peter!
Please, I need you to clear me on this:
1) He won't be able to cope if she doesn't help him.
2) He won't be able to cope if she isn't so helpful to him.
3) He wouldn't be able to cope if she didn't help him.
4) He wouldn't be able to cope if she wasn't so helpful to him.
5) He wouldn't be able to cope if she hadn't been so helpful to him.
6) He wouldn't have been able to cope if she wasn't so helpful to him.
7) He wouldn't have been able to cope if she hadn't been so helpful to him.
8) He wouldn't be able to cope if she weren't so helpful to him.
9) He wouldn't have been able to cope if she weren't so helpful to him.

MEANING
1) and 2) are the same: I say this if i think "she's unlikely to help him".
3) She's likely to help him.
4) HERE COMES MY QUESTION.
5) Shows the present consequences of a past action.
6) and 7) are the same: Past action.
8) She's helpful to him presently only.
9) She's been helpful to him - then and now.

MY QUESTION: IS SENTENCE 4) THE SAME AS 3) OR 5)?

Hello Dan.hilton,

I'm afraid this isn't the sort of help we can provide. We're happy to explain points on our own pages which are not clear, or sometimes to explain aspects of the language which puzzle our users. Howeverr, we do not deal with tasks from elsewhere which may be part of another course, a test or come from homework.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you!
I understand you perfectly. The task isn't part of another course, a test or homework. I actually took the sentence from yours above, made more sentences from it, but after going through all I've been totally confused if WASN'T in (4) is acceptable assuming the speaker don't know what the reality was or the speaker is referring to the unlikely present or future (2nd conditional).
I'll be grateful if you let me know your view on this. Thanks.

Hello Dan.hilton,

Sentence 4 expressed the same concept as sentence 3. It describles an alternative/hypothetical present situation. It does not refer to a particular act, but makes a general statement.

3) He wouldn't be able to cope if she didn't help him.
4) He wouldn't be able to cope if she wasn't so helpful to him.

In both sentences we understand that

  • she does help him / she is helpful to him
  • because of this he is able to cope

and therefore

  • if she did not help him / if she was not helpful to him
  • then he would not be able to cope

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much!

Hello, sir. I'm in an English course. I've got a question about conditional sentence type 2. Is it correct if I use 'was' as tobe for She/He/It? For example;
- If she was my girlfriend, I would kiss her.
- If it was sunny, I'd go picnic.

Because I find my self that 'were' is used by those three subjects mostly. Could you please give me more explanation?

Thank you, sir!

Hello Hakuna Matata,

I would suggest you use the form that your teacher recommends, but I can explain this a bit more. Traditionally, 'were' was the correct verb for any subject in the if-clause of a second conditional construction. Nowadays, however, people often use 'was' when the subject is 'I' or 'he', 'she' or 'it' (as in your sentences). So most people would probably say your example sentences are correct, but some teachers might not.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

if it were up to me i would have killed you a long time ago ??? correct

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