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 Jonathan R,

Thank you very much. You are an absolute rock star.
All the examples I've found describe the third conditional as something
separate and clear-cut, not repeated or stretched in time. As I mentioned before, such sentences have always seemed too limited and restricted, probably due to the fact that we have Past Perfect and would have + ppv in them. Also, I've always heard people use them to speculate about some situations in the past with time markers like 'yesterday', 'last year' or similar, and that, again, makes more focused on a particular action.

Does it sound natural when people use the third conditional for repeated past situations?
I reckon that there might be somecases when those past situations might be discussed using the second conditional (like the sentences in my first dialog), but at the same time if you change my sentence a bit:

- If you had been in his place all those times or all last year or when we were students, would you have enjoyed your everyday routine?

It will sound a bit strange, will it not?
Is there a better way, or do I have to make do with the third conditional when it comes to any past situations?

Thank you again.

Hi Tony_M,

I'm glad you found my answer useful. That's a sharp observation about how people use the third conditional. However, I think there is no reason why we can't use it for a long-running state or a repeated action. Here is an example I found (from a novel) of a long-running state: If I had known how awfully bitter this love would be, I'd have avoided you

About repeated actions such as your example, I agree that your sentence sounds a bit strange. But in my view, that's not connected to the third conditional. I would say something like this: 

  • If you had been in his place, would you have enjoyed your everyday routine? 
  • If that had been you, would you have enjoyed your everyday routine? 

There's nothing wrong with adding "all those times" in the sentence, and it emphasises the repeatedness more. But it's clear that "If you had been in his place" refers to all of those occasions, not just a single occasion, so I don't feel any need to emphasise "all those times". Actually, time markers may be used but they are not obligatory (e.g., the example from the novel above).

Similarly, I think it's unnecessary to say "when we were students" because the speaker referred to his/her student days earlier in the conversation, so the timeframe is already defined and it's not necessary to repeat it.

I hope that somehow helps to find some answers!

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by HLH on Mon, 02/10/2023 - 13:03

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Hello
if had been coming tomorrow you would have met your mother
1-This sentence is about the past, why did he say tomorrow? and
Is tomorrow over? Explain please

if had been coming tomorrow you would meet your mother
Is tomorrow not over yet?

if had been coming today you would have met your mother
Is today over? or Today the meeting is over

if had been coming today you would meet your mother
Is today not over yet? or Today the meeting is not over

Hi HLH,

Firstly, in all these sentences, the subject is missing and it should be "If you ..." or "If he ..." or some other subject. 

1. I don't understand what the person wants to say. The first part (if had been coming tomorrow) seems to be about the future, and the second part (you would have met your mother) seems to be about the past, so overall the sentence doesn't make sense. If the sentence is about the past (an unreal past), it should be: If you had come (that day), you would have met your mother.

2. No, this seems to be about the future so tomorrow has not started yet.

3. "Today" is not yet over but the time of the meeting is over (because would have met your mother is a competed action).

4. Would meet your mother is about the present/future, so "today" is not over and the meeting also hasn't happened yet.

May I also add, it's not clear why the past perfect continuous (had been coming) is used. To refer to an unreal future action (e.g. sentences 2 and 4), saying If you were coming ... or If you came ... would be simpler and clearer.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Hanker-after on Thu, 29/06/2023 - 13:41

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Hello
How to distinguish between normal conditional sentences and the mixed conditionals especially when it comes to multiple choice sentences like this one:
If I had saved more money I .......... this house.
a- would have owned. b- would own.
What is the correct answer of this sentence? why? does the answer depend on the meaning of the sentence or on the existence of certain time words?

another question : are there any time words that are usually used with mixed conditional sentences, like now or yesterday, etc? please if there are any , mention them .

Thank you very much

Hello Hanker-after,

The terms 'first conditional', 'second conditional' etc are only terms we use to help learners recognise common patterns. They are not more 'normal' in any particular way than any other conditionals. Really, there are only two rules for conditional sentences:

1. The whole conditional sentence is either about a real situation or a hypothetical situation; you cannot mix a real condition with a hypothetical result or vice-versa.

2. The result must follow (in terms of time) the condition. This is more a law of physics than language, but obviously results come after conditions in time, not before. In other words, you cannot have a past result of a future condition – that would require time travel!

 

With these two rules you can create all sorts of sentences. For example:

If their child is naughty, they are angry. [real general present time]

If their child were naughty, they would be angry. [unreal general present time]

If I was naughty as a child, my parents were angry. [real general past time]

If their child is naughty at the party, they'll be angry. [real specific future time]

If their child were naughty at the party, they would be angry. [unreal specific future time]

These are just a few examples. Note that sometimes the same form can have different uses. For example, the third and fifth examples here have the same verb forms: if + past > would verb, but the meanings are different. Only the context tells us whether we are talking about unreal general past time or unreal specific future time.

 

In answer to your question, both answers are grammatically possible. The ownership could be only in the past or could be still true today. There is no way to know without knowing the wider context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi
The answer is b, If I had saved money, I would own this house.
coz the result in the present time accordingly, it's a mixed condition
Thanx hope I have help

Submitted by OstapBen on Wed, 28/06/2023 - 10:47

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Hi Kirk Moore, Jonathan R, Peter M.
Hope you're doing great!

Please point on the right answer and explain your choice
"If I ... her before, I would have recognised her.
A) saw;
B) would see;
C) see;
D) had seen."