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


Could you please explain" wouldn't+ verb"? For example:
I wouldn't leave the office until I had checked that all the doors were locked.
My question is: shouldn´t we use "didn't leave" instead of "wouldn´t leave" or is it correct as it is.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

What is correct here depends on the situation and what the speaker means. If this sentence is about a specific past action, then you are right, 'didn't leave' is the best form. 'would' can be used to speak about past habitual actions, however, so it is actually possible to use it here if that's what the speaker means.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello everyone, first I would like to thank you all for the extraordinary efforts you are doing. Could you kindly correct me for the following sentences?

1)) Supposed we are in summer and I would say: " She would go skiing if it snowed tomorrow" ; I imagine it had a chance to snow tomorrow, even in hot summer.

2)) In the same day which it supposed to snow, but did not, I would say: "She would go skiing now if it had snowed."

3)) The day after , I would say: "She would have gone skiing if it had snowed yesterday."

Am I using "if" correctly?

Thank you in advance and greetings.

Hello Hopefinder,

All of those sentences are correct. Well done!



The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter, I really appreciate your reply.

Hi everyone @TheLearnEnglishTeam. I thought I knew all the rules related to conditional sentences until I came across the following sentence uttered by a native speaker (a very famous native speaker, by the way). This is the sentence: "If we didn’t build the public infrastructure in the early 20th century to support mass electrification, only the wealthy would have had heat and running water". My question is: shouldn´t he have started the "if" clause using "If we hadn´t built". This would make more sense to me. Am I wrong? Thank you for your kind reply. Cheers!

Hi MariaMafalda,

Yes, 'if we hadn't built' is the most correct form here. As you can see, native speakers do make mistakes, particularly when speaking spontaneously, in which people often change structures in mid-sentence.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Kirk, for your prompt feedback. For a moment I thought I had got my Grammar wrong and that everything I learned was going down the drain :) Thanks again.

Hello MortazaAyabenzer,

This use of 'would' is not uncommon, but we also use 'used to' and the past simple quite often, probably more often than 'would' in fact. I think you might find the explanation of 'used to' and 'would' on this Cambridge Dictionary page useful and would recommend that to you. If you have any other questions after that, we're happy to help, but please make them about a specific sentence or pair of sentences if possible.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team