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.





What are the differences between thes pairs of sentences:
1)He knew that for the invasion to succeed, he needs to conquer Vienna.
He knew that for the invasion to succeed, he will need to conquer Vienna.
He knew that for the invasion to succeed, he would need to conquer Vienna

2) A small donation will be appreciated.
A small donation would be appreciated.

3) What will the difference in the meaning of the sentence be, if you use .........
What would the difference in the meaning of the sentence be, if you used .........

4) What will you do if a lion attacks?
What would you do if a lion attacked?

5) He knew that if you heat water to hundred degrees, it boils.
He knew that if you heated water to hundred degrees, it would boil.(is would here the past tense of will?)


''The manager realized that he was damned if he did, damned if he didn't lose the best salesperson, as sales would certainly drop in the short term.''

Is the only reason why we have here ''did'' and ''did not'' to show that it is unlikely to happen as in the second conditional (If I had money, I would...)?

Thank you.

Hello MCWSL,

The phrase can be used with 'did' or 'do' in most cases (and the difference is, as you say, the assumed likelihood), but in your example 'did' is required as it is part of a narrative ('realized') using past tense. Hence you also have 'was' and 'would'. Using a present form here would be inconsistent.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

There is a sentence:

If she had been you, she would have visited England years ago.

Saying years ago we mean 3rd conditional, but the first part: do we leave it as third conditional, or does it always stay "if she were"?
Thank you!

Hi katichka2003,

This depends. Both choices are possible.

If she is no longer alive or if we are referring to a particular moment in time (i.e. a moment when there was a choice) then we say 'If she had been you...' because the condition is entirely in the past and is complete.

On the other hand, if she is still alive and we are talking in general terms (i.e. we are making a comment about her character in general not about a particular moment or choice) then we say 'If she were you...'


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi ... "If he studied more, he would pass the exam." In this sentence, should we understand that the exam will be done in the future ... and, at the time of speaking, speaker means that he don't study sufficiently ... right?

Hi Ogeday,

As written, the sentence refers to an unlikely future, exactly as you say. It could refer to a general situation if not for the direct article. If it said 'pass exams' instead of 'pass the exam' then it would be about the person's general lack of work and success, not about a particular exam in the future. With 'the', however, it has a future meaning.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Here is the sentence:
"I must say that we can improve our English speaking skill more rapidly if we were taught how to speak in English at a young age."
Is it correct? Shouldn't be "can" replaced with "could"?

Hello anna.m,

The correct word here is 'could' because the sentence describes a hypothetical situation in the present. 'Can' is not correct because the verb in the if-clause is a past form.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team