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


It's a tape script in our book in Egypt.
Presenter: Hello. If you listened to last week’s Natural World, you would know that we had a lot of unanswered questions about trees. So this week, we have invited Professor Jeremy Beech to answer these and other questions about trees. Welcome to the programme, Professor.
Prof. Beech: Hello.
Presenter: Can we have our first question, please?
Female caller: Hello, I’d like to ask the professor about the tallest tree in the world.
Where is it and how tall is it?
But in another tape script in the same book
Presenter: If you listened to last week’s programme, you would have heard Professor Jeremy Beech answering some of your questions about trees. I’m sure that, like me, you wished that you knew as much about them as he does. Today, we welcome Professor Beech back to talk about forests.
Professor, could you start by telling us about the different kinds of forests?
Prof. Beech: Yes, let me explain. Well, as we all know,..................................
Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,
The time of each action is different:
' would have heard...' refers to an action which took place in the past (hearing).
' would know...' refers to a state true in the present (knowing).
I hope that clarifies it for you.
Please note that we generally do not provide explanations for material from elsewhere. We're happy to explain the information on our own pages, or to answer more general questions about the language where we can, of course.
The LearnEnglish Team

"She would have been fine provided that she’d worn sun cream."
Is this sentence correct or we should replace "provided that" with "if"?
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Islam
Normally, 'provided that' is not used in hypothetical or imaginary sentences. In this case, 'would have been' and 'had worn' clearly refer to a past imaginary situation, so it doesn't really work here. I would recommend you use 'if'. Otherwise, the sentence is perfect.
All the best
The LearnEnglish Team

'If she had not lent me an umbrella I wouldn't go to the school'

Is my sentence right? And could you explain why we don't need to put a comma after the fisrt clause? I think, we did it at previous conditionals.

Hello Achmad Shocheb

Yes, that is grammatically correct. It means she lent you an umbrella and that you are going to school, but that you would not if you didn't have the umbrella.

If you wanted to speak about how you went to school (in the past), then you'd have to change it to: 'If she had not lent me an umbrella, I wouldn't have gone to school'. But I assume that is not the meaning that you want to express here.

You're right, there should be a comma after the word 'umbrella'. In a couple of the example sentences above, the comma was missing, but I have fixed this. Thanks for pointing it out!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, krik. It's very helpful. I really appreciate your help.

Could you please help me?
- Unless they (had saved - have saved - saved) enough money, they won’t be able to go on holiday next summer.
Really I am confused. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

I'm afraid none of these options is ideal. What would make most sense to me would be 'save'.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Peter,
Thank you for the answer. Perhaps my way of asking the question wasn't right. I intended to ask that there are any other situations or explanation of using Third conditional other than something that didn't happen as this email was sent by a British speaker. With your example made me understand how to use Third conditional.