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.

 

Exercise

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Thank you dear sir,but I would want to know what do you mean by not idiomatic??please elaborate.

Hello AdityaV,

I'm sorry! 'idiomatic' means 'natural and correct'. In other words, although any native speaker would understand your sentence, it would sound strange and incorrect to them because that is not the way this is expressed in English. My suggestions are the way I'd recommend to say it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I am a bit confused when it comes to translate a sentence that has a mixed conditional structure will it has a different function than the original structure i mean in terms of the cases that we are using the conditional to express
thanks in advance

Hello Omnia101,

I'm afraid we don't do any translation work on LearnEnglish so we can't comment on how a sentence would be expressed in your language. However, if there is a concrete example which you find confusing then we'll be happy to comment on that.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

thank you so much peter i really appreciate your help

Hello. I am very confused. In the sentence like this
I wish we weren't coming/hadn't come to this football match , then we wouldn't be in the middle of all these hooligans now.
Which answer is correct? I am trying to catch the point of tenses but it's so mixed.I need some help.

Hello NadiraRK,

The correct form here is 'hadn't come'. The sentence is an example of a conditional sentence with different time references in each clause:

 

I wish we weren't coming/hadn't come to this football match, [a past unreal condition]

 

(because) then we wouldn't be in the middle of all these hooligans now. [a present result of the past unreal condition]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir
Thank you very much for your prompt reply. It is very claer now. Regarding the third conditional we use past perfect in the if clause and would/coulld/ might plus have been
but not always. Is it alright to say: If my grandfather had lived up to now, he would be
a very old man. Because it is a fact. I am I correct? But not he would have been.
Please let me know what I have mentioned here is correct or not.
Thank you.
Regards

Hello Andrew international,

You're welcome. Your sentence, which is correct, has a mixed conditional with past perfect in the 'if' clause and 'would' instead of 'would have' in the second clause. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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