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


Hi Risa warysha,
Both forms describe can describe unlikely events, with [if... were to] being a little more formal. However, [if + were to] cannot be used to describe impossible or imaginary situations:
> If he offered you money, would you accept = correct (unlikely future)
> If he were to offer you money, would you accept = correct (unlikely future)
> If I had three heads, I would spent a lot on hats = correct (imaginary situation)
> If I were to have three heads, I would spent a lot on hats = not correct (imaginary situation)
The LearnEnglish Team

hi teacher,
Can you please help me, I can't decide which is correct.
(a) She would not talk to you if she was/ were mad at you.
(b) You know if David wasn’t/weren't so clumsy, he would not have so many accidents.
Many thanks for your kind response.

Hi JessicaAw,
Both 'was' and 'were' are possible in each sentence. 'Were' used to be expected in such sentences, but languages change over time and in modern English both forms are commonly used.
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir,
could you please tell me if we can use such conjunctions as "unless, providing" not only in 1st conditionals but also in 2nd and 3rd.
And tell me please if we can also use the mentioned conjunctions and conjunctions supposing, imagine in mixed conditionals-

Thank you!

Hello Danana,
We do not use 'unless' or 'providing' with impossible or unreal situations (such as those in what are sometimes called '2nd' and '3rd' conditionals).
You can use 'imagine' and 'supposing' to refer to these situations, however:
'Imagine you had gone to the party. How would you feel?'
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. would you please consider this:
I would have done it if I could.
I would have done it if I could have done it.
Does the first sentence imply that this is a mixed conditional? Do I get it right that 'if I could' means 'could' in general, now or ever?

Hello gerol2000
The first sentence here is similar to sentence you were asking about in another comment. It mixes a present or future condition ('if I could') with an imaginary past consequence ('I would have done it'), and this combination doesn't make sense. Perhaps in some very specific context it would be possible, but I can't think of one off the top of my head.
The second sentence is perfect!
All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks again for resolving my doubts. With all this in mind, would it be always correct to say
'If I could do it, I would do it' for present or future
'I would have done it if I could have done' for past
'If I had done that, I wouldn't have done this.' for past

'If I had done that, I wouldn't be doing this' - mixed with present result?

Hello gerol2000
Yes, that looks correct to me. Congratulations!
All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

And still, Dear Kirk, do you think this, that I have found doing some on-line test,
'If anyone of them could sew, she would have done a tablecloth for them all'
should be rearranged as
'If anyone of them had been able to sew, she would have done a tablecloth for them all'?
Am I right thinking that the first is just American English, where implied result can be used with present condition?
So, 'If I had been in your shoes, I wouldn't have done it' is better than 'If I were you, I wouldn't have done it', isn't it?