Conditionals: third and mixed

Conditionals: third and mixed

Do you know how to use third conditionals and mixed conditionals? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how third and mixed conditionals are used.

We would have walked to the top of the mountain if the weather hadn't been so bad.
If we'd moved to Scotland when I was a child, I would have a Scottish accent now.
If she was really my friend, she wouldn't have lied to me.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Conditionals 2: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

Do you know how to use third and mixed conditionals?

Third conditionals and mixed conditionals

Conditionals describe the result of a certain condition. The if clause tells you the condition (If I hadn't been ill) and the main clause tells you the result (I would have gone to the party). The order of the clauses does not change the meaning.

If I hadn't been ill, I would have gone to the party.
I would have gone to the party if I hadn't been ill.

Conditional sentences are often divided into different types.

Third conditional

The third conditional is used to imagine a different past. We imagine a change in a past situation and the different result of that change.

If I had understood the instructions properly, I would have passed the exam.
We wouldn't have got lost if my phone hadn't run out of battery.

In third conditional sentences, the structure is usually: If + past perfect >> would have + past participle.

Mixed conditionals

We can use mixed conditionals when we imagine a past change with a result in the present or a present change with a result in the past.

1. Past/Present 

Here's a sentence imagining how a change in a past situation would have a result in the present.

If I hadn't got the job in Tokyo, I wouldn't be with my current partner.

So the structure is: If + past perfect >> would + infinitive.

2. Present/Past

Here's a sentence imagining how a different situation in the present would mean that the past was different as well.

It's really important. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have called you on your holiday.

And the structure is: If + past simple >> would have + past participle.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Conditionals 2: Grammar test 2

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Hello OstapBen,

D is the correct answer. It forms a third conditional structure, which is talks about an imaginary past event, that is, an event that did not happen.

None of the other options form sentences that make sense. Some people might say A, but strictly speaking, it's not grammatically correct.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by User_1 on Mon, 12/06/2023 - 14:36

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Hello,
I would ask you about Mixed conditionals.
Overall, I have figured out when mixed conditionals are being used,
but it is not so easy to practise and become familiar with them.
Could you give me any suggestions to use them better and with confidence?
Thanks for help.

Hello User_1,

BBC Learning English have a useful masterclass on mixed conditionals that I'd recommend having a look at. I especially like the 'Session Grammar' box on the right side of the page. If you follow some of the links on that page, you'll find other pages with some practice exercises that might be useful.

But in general, I think the best thing to do is pay attention for sentences with 'if' in them as you read in and listen to English, especially when mixed forms are used. See if you can make sense of them and if you think there's any other way to use them. If you make a note of any such sentence, you're welcome to ask us about it. Or if you have any other specific questions, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by hossein7802 on Sat, 27/05/2023 - 14:47

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Hi sir,
Please explain me why do we use "were" instead of "was" in this sentence:

If my grandmother ..... alive, she would have loved to see me graduate.

Hi hossein7802,

In hypothetical sentences like this, where we are describing a situation which is not true or which we consider to be extremely unlikely/impossible, we traditionally use a form called the past subjunctive (also sometimes called irrealis). You can see it after hypothetical forms like these:

If I were a rich man, I'd....

I wish she weren't so rude.

If only he were here!

 

It's worth nothing that while the form is still quite common, 'was' is becoming more popular as time goes by, suggesting that the language is changing and that the irrealis form may disappear at some  point in the future.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Asmaa 88 on Sun, 21/05/2023 - 16:38

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Hello,
Can you help me with this please?

We wouldn't get into this miss if we ...................... to the instructions in previous sessions.

A. listened
B. have listened
C. have been listening
D.could have listened

I'm not sure but I guess it's B. It seems to make sense for me.

Hi Asmaa 88,

To be honest, I think the best answer is actually "had listened". The missing words need to show an unreal past action (i.e. in the past, we did not actually listen to the instructions), which is shown by "had listened" in the past perfect. It's similar to the first example (Past/Present) in the Mixed conditionals section above.

Answers A, B and C are possibly acceptable, but they don't show as clearly that "had listened" is actually an unreal action, not a real one.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team