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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Hi Jonathan
Thanks again for your response

So you’re saying that based in your sentences only a zero conditional expresses a real situation and all other conditionals are unreal??

It / there seems to be a lack of communication.

Which one is correct it or there and can you explain why please.

Best regards

Hi Andi,

A zero conditional expresses a general truth (real situation). A first conditional expresses a realistic or probable future situation. This is also a real situation - a real future. (Here, 'real' means that the situation has a reasonable chance of occurring in the future, in the speaker's opinion. 'Real' doesn't mean that the situation has already occurred, or is occurring.) If I say, for example, "When I finish work, I'll call you", I'm saying that I will do this with a high degree of certainty (i.e., a real future).

A second conditional expresses an unreal present or future situation, and a third condition expresses an unreal past situation. Here, 'unreal' means these situations are improbable or impossible.

In answer to your second question, both are grammatically possible. 'It' is a reference word, so it needs to refer to another thing mentioned in the conversation (e.g., a problem that the speaker described). 'There' is also possible. 'There seems to be' is a common phrase to introduce the existence or presence of something. We need to know the context in which this sentence is said to know whether 'there' or 'it' is more suitable.

I hope that helps :)

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan
Thanks a lot for your response
If it wasn’t raining we could go and play tennis.
This is a situation in the present, correct me if I’m wrong, and why “ if it didn’t rain “ isn’t possible here.

If they didn’t want to be successful, people wouldn’t buy these books.
This is a second conditional talking about unreal situations in the present or future.
But how can this be a situation occurring in the present or future when in the if clause we have past tense and in the main clause, future in the past??

Best regards

Hi Andi,

In the first sentence, it is (presumably) raining at the moment the speaker says this sentence, and we understand rain as something temporary (i.e., not something that will last forever, or something that is always true). So, we need the continuous form ("If it wasn't raining") to show that. If we say "If it didn't rain", that would refer to a permanent state of not raining, i.e., we imagine what would happen if there was no rain at any time, and it does not say anything about whether it is raining at the moment of speaking or not.

In the second sentence, it's important to understand that past verb forms do not always mean past time. They can also refer to unreal present/future situations, as in this example.

The main clause doesn't show future in the past. For comparison, here is an example of future in the past: "The company thought that people wouldn't buy these books." As you can see, the words are similar to your example, and the time of "people wouldn't buy these books" is after the time of "The company thought", but the timeframe of the whole sentence is the past (unlike your sentence, which has a present/future timeframe).

I hope that helps.

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan
Thank you so much for the long response very helpful and I really appreciate it
Best regards

Submitted by GoldenTeacher1 on Sun, 17/10/2021 - 21:51


Are there any other instances where we use commas in conditional sentences other than when the sentence begins with a dependent clause?

Hello GoldenTeacher1,

As you say, in general, we use a comma when a conditional begins with the dependent clause. I'm afraid I can't definitely say that there are no other circumstances when a comma needs to be used -- there are just too many possible situations. But if you have a specific situation in mind, please feel free to explain it to us and ask us about it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Natasa Tanasa on Fri, 27/08/2021 - 11:06

Hello everyone, Could you help me with understanding when to use in the Second Conditional: "If I were..." and "If I was..."? Thank you a lot!

Hi Natasa Tanasa,

The short answer is that both If I were and If I was are acceptable, and the meaning is the same. But, there is a preference for were, especially in writing. 

There's a short explanation on this page (see the Second conditional section) and on this Grammar reference page, with some examples and exercises. I hope they help!


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan

I’m sorry for commenting in another person’s reply but there is no comment option in here for me to post my comment.

1)If Paul hadn’t been an extreme athlete, Jordan might not have climbed Everest.

2)if Paul weren’t an extreme athlete, Jordan might not have climbed Everest.

What’s the difference between if clauses of 1) and 2) ?? Does 1) mean that Paul is still an extreme athlete and in 2) he is not??
Best regards