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.





Hello Kelly S.

Both versions (with and without inversion) are correct. I think the version with inversion is more common but neither is incorrect.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much!!

Best Wishes,
Kelly S.


'If the water has reached the town, then the last flood barrier has failed'

I know that there are two rules for creating conditionals one of which is ''an if-clause always happens first''

Does the sentence above satisfy the rule?

Many thanks

Hello MCWSL,

The condition must precede the result as a straightforward issue of logic rather than grammar.

That sentence is a little unusual in that it has two present perfect forms but it is quite consistent and correct. The meaning here is not immediately clear, however. It does not mean that first the water reaches the town and then the barrier fails as the second clause really refers to our awareness of the failure. In other words, the second clause really tells us 'then we can conclude that the last flood barrier has failed' or 'then we know that the last...'


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk could you please explain these conditionals.
If I were you, I would have not done this.
If i were you, I would not do this.

Hello Asgharkhan8,

The second sentence is in the second conditional and is a common way of giving advice. The first sentence is a mixed conditional and speaks about an imaginary or unreal past situation. Please note the word order is slightly incorrect: it should be 'I would not have done'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

With regard to the imaginary situation, the structure " were + subject + to inf" = " if + subject + were"

Eg. (1) Were the election to be held today, the liberals would lose = (2) If the election were held today....

My question is: Do both the above have the same meaning as:
Sentence(3) " If the election were TO BE held today...."
Sentence (4)" Were the election held today..."

The reason I think (3) has the same meaning as (1) is because I think sentence (1) is just an inversion of (3) where "were" is put at the beginning of the sentence. The same with (4) and (2 ) where (4) is the inversion of (2)

If this is correct, does it mean all 4 sentences have the same meaning and can be used interchangeably? If so, why don't we just use either (2) or (4) as they are shorter?
thank you.

Hello Widescreen,

Yes, these are alternative forms of what is sometimes called the second conditional:

If I lived in Paris...

Were I to live in Paris...

The second form is a more formal and literary construction, and is rarer. It also has a more limited meaning. Both forms can be used for hypothetical and unlikely but possible events. However, we cannot use the second structure for impossible events:

If I won the lottery, I'd buy a new house - fine

Were I to win the lottery, I'd buy a new house - fine

If I had two heads, I'd talk to myself - fine

Were I to have two heads, I'd talk to myself - incorrect as it is an impossible situation


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your clarification Peter. Just one more thing if you could please confirm:
If I lived in Paris = Were I live in Paris?
Were I to live in Paris = If I were to live in Paris?

thank you.

Hello Widescreen,

There are three variants possible here:

If I lived in Paris

If I were to live in Paris

Were I to live in Paris

The other sentence is not grammatically correct.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team