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

Average: 4.2 (118 votes)

Hi Tony,

No worries. The box to write a new comment is now at the bottom of the page, so have a look there.

Clause 1 (hadn't been - past perfect) shows an unreal past. The sentence means Paul was an extreme athlete at the time when Jordan climbed Everest. (The meaning is limited to that past time. It does not say anything about whether Paul is still an extreme athlete today.)

In clause 2, (weren't - past simple) shows an unreal present. It means that Paul is an extreme athlete. This is understood as a fact that is true and unchanging regardless of time (i.e., it is true in the present, and extends to the past and future as well). In this sentence, it's certain that Paul is still an extreme athlete now.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 29/03/2021 - 06:29

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Hello. I'm really confused about how to use "unless" in 2nd and 3rd conditionals. Is the following sentence correct? Why? Please explain in simple language. - Unless he had helped me, I wouldn't have been able to finish the work. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

We don't use unless with statements that we know to be true. For example:

She wouldn't have gone to the party unless Paul asked her.

[this is speculation; the speaker does not know for certain if Paul asked her]

I wouldn't have gone to the party if Paul hadn't asked me. [not unless]

[this is certain: the speaker knows Paul asked them and so unless cannot be used]

 

In your example, the speaker knows that help was given and so unless cannot be used. The sentence needs to use 'if...not': If he hadn't helped me...

 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Ahmed Imam

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 25/03/2021 - 03:31

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Hello. Is it OK to use "in case" in second conditionals? For example, Is the following sentence correct? - I got some books with me when I went travelling in case I got board. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

It's fine to use in case with past forms. Your sentence is not a so-called second conditional, however, but rather a sentence about a real past event. In your example in case has the meaning 'because it was possible that':

I took some books in case I got bored.

[took = a real past event; got bored = a possible past situation]

 

You can use in case with future hypothetical meaning:

If I went, I would take some books in case I got bored.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by gsgxxiii on Mon, 22/03/2021 - 12:45

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For conditional 3, can I not use 'if'? For example: Had I understood the instructions properly, I would have passed the exam.

Submitted by Graziadb1966 on Sun, 21/03/2021 - 08:34

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‘If I could change the way I live my life today, I wouldn’t change a single thing’ song by Lisa Stanfiled... is this a second conditional given that the If clause uses a modal verb? Shouldn’t it be if I changed ..., I wouldn’t ...? Maybe just because it a song? What about ‘If I could, I surely would’ (also a song by Simon & Garfunkel’s)?

Hello Graziadb1966,

It's perfectly fine to use certain modal verbs in the if-clause of conditional sentences. In your example 'could change' has the meaning 'were able to change' and so it expresses a different meaning to just 'changed'.

 

Here are a few other examples of modal verbs used in if-clauses:

  • If + should - expressing a sense of something happening to the subject which he or she cannot control: If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. [The Soldier, Ruperb Brooke].
  • If + will - expressing a sense of agreement/being willing to do something: If he will speak to us, I think we can persuade him.
  • If + can - expressing a sense of possibility: If he can get the documents to me by tonight, I will sign them.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Iman ELBorolos on Thu, 04/03/2021 - 10:46

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Hello, I am confused between conditionals. Did you mean that :if something started in the past and its effect extend to the present we will use if+past perfect ----would+infinitive but if something started and end in the past and i wish to change it in the past we will use if +past simple--------would have=past participle please help and advise.