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

Hello gerol2000
I'm afraid that is not correct. Because the sentence speaks of the present or future affecting the past -- the condition ('I didn't go there') refers to a present or future imaginary action, and the result ('I wouldn't have known what to do yesterday') refers to an imaginary action in the past -- the sentence is confusing.
If you changed the condition clause to 'If I hadn't gone there', then it would be a grammatically correct third conditional sentence.
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

One more question, please. Would it be correct if I said 'If didn't go there yesterday, I wouldn't have known what to do'

Hello gerol2000
Although people would understand you, and you might even find some native speakers say that, I wouldn't recommend using this sentence. This is because, in conditional sentences, 'hadn't gone there' refers to the past, and 'didn't go there' refers to the present or future. It sounds strange to combine 'yesterday' with a form that talks about the present or future.
All the best
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot, Kirk. When I stumbled over this example, I myself felt slightly embarassed about it. Now it is clear.

What if I would say 'If I wasn't afraid of a fall, I would have walked faster'. Could the result clause be referred to as 'past' in this case, if I mean that I am always afraid of a fall?

Thanks a lot, Kirk.

Excuse me, Is the following structure correct? Is it second or third conditional with the use of the words "last week"?
If you listened to last week’s programme, you would have heard Professor Jeremy Beech answering some of your questions about trees.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,
Yes, the sentence is correct. It's an unusual sentence as it appears to mix real and unreal clauses, but it is possible.
~
The first clause ('If you listened to last week’s programme') describes a real situation; it tells us that the speaker thinks the other person listened to the programme.
Normally, we would expect a real result to follow, making the sentence like this:
'If you listened to last week’s programme, you heard Professor Jeremy Beech answering some of your questions about trees.'
This sentence conveys certainty: the speaker is drawing a logical conclusion ('you heard') from an accepted fact ('you listened').
~
If the speaker wanted to describe an unreal situation then they could have done so:
'If you had listened to last week’s programme, you would have heard Professor Jeremy Beech answering some of your questions about trees.'
Here, the speaker does not think the other person listened, or heard Professor Beech.
~
However, sometimes the situation is less clear. Imagine the speaker believes that the other person listened, but still imagines it is possible for them to have not heard part of the information. In this case, a perfect modal is needed. 'Would have', 'might have', 'could have' and so on are all possible:
'If you listened to last week’s programme, you would have heard Professor Jeremy Beech answering some of your questions about trees.'
'If you listened to last week’s programme, you might have heard Professor Jeremy Beech answering some of your questions about trees.'
'If you listened to last week’s programme, you may have heard Professor Jeremy Beech answering some of your questions about trees.'
~
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much. what about the following sentence? Is it also real conditionals?
- If you listened to last week’s Natural World, you would know that we had a lot of unanswered questions about trees.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,
It's very hard to answer these questions without knowing the context as there are too many possibilities. I think, to be honest, you are approaching it the wrong way round. Rather than presenting sentences without context, tell us what you want to say (explain the situation) and we will be happy to suggest how you might express yourself.
~
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

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