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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Submitted by cchenjl on Thu, 18/04/2024 - 16:24


How do I determine whether to use the third conditional or mixed conditional past/present? For example: If I'd bought that flat then, it _____ worth a lot of money now.  The sentence imagines a different past either a past change with a result in the present.

Hello cchenjl,

Every conditional sentence has two parts: the condition (the if clause) and the result (the result clause). They must both agree in terms of being about a real/likley/possible situation or an unreal/unlikely/impossible situation, so you cannot mix a real if clause with an unreal result. Second, they must be logical in terms of the sequence of events, so if the condition is in present time you cannot have a past result.

In your example, the condition is past and unreal, so the result can be past and unreal (would have), present and unreal (would) or future and unreal (also would). However, the lexis used also has an effect and you have the word 'now' in the result clause. 'Now' limits your options to the present, so only a present form is possible:

If I'd bought that flat then, it would be worth a lot of money now.

If a different time reference is used then a past result is possible:

If I'd bought that flat then, it would have been worth a lot of money after just a couple of years.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user HelloThere

Submitted by HelloThere on Sun, 14/04/2024 - 18:31


Dear team,

I've been confuse with would have or could have.

I didn't tell her anything. She would not have liked it.

Can I use could not have as I think it was possible in the past?

Hello HelloThere,

The sentence here is making a prediction about an alternative past and your option are would not have, might not have or may not have.

Could not have would mean that something was not possible rather than something being possible. For example: Paul didn't go to the meeting so he could not have talked to her [talking to her was not possible].



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir ,

I've learnt that 'Could have' means past possibilities but 'would have' means imaginary past. But it somehow makes me think they are the same. Past possibilities and imaginary past made me think they are the same. 

 In this,

He is lucky. He would have hurt himself.

He is lucky. He could have hurt himself.

Is there any way to spot the difference between them? 

Hello HelloThere,

In this case, would implies a certain past result if the condition is met:

He is lucky. If he had tried to fix the machine he would have hurt himself. [hurting himself was certain if he tried to fix it]

However, could describes a possibility which is not certain:

He is lucky. If he had tried to fix the machine he could have hurt himself. [hurting himself was a possibility (not 100% certain) if he tried to fix it]



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ganecia on Sun, 07/04/2024 - 23:27


Hello, team?

May I ask the mixed conditional such as "If I have been eexposed to Covid, what would I do?".

It looks a combination (if  +  present perfect , S would verb).

Which conditiinal format could be applicable and how to interpret?

Thank you very much 😊 

Hi ganecia,

Right, it's a combination of a first conditional "if" clause and a second conditional main clause. Because of this mix of structures, it's unclear how the speaker considers the situation. 

That said, I would tentatively interpret it more like a second conditional (i.e., being exposed to Covid is possible but somewhat unlikely to happen), for a few reasons. Firstly, the main clause uses the second conditional form. Secondly, the main clause is also the final thing to be said, which is important because the speaker might have started saying "If I have been exposed ..." but then realised that it sounds relatively sure to happen, and then corrected him/herself by changing mid-sentence to a second conditional to make it seem less sure to happen. Thirdly, by coming at the end of the sentence, the main clause "what would I do?" leads directly into the listener's response, so it may invite the listener to respond using the second conditional too. Fourthly, there is also the general context that Covid is less widespread than it was several years ago, so being exposed to it may be considered somewhat unlikely. But this is all just my guess. The speaker's meaning is unclear so without further information, it's not possible to know what exactly the speaker meant.

I hope that helps!


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Username656602 on Wed, 27/03/2024 - 02:43


Hello, could you answer me a Question?

Can I mix first conditional with second conditional like she would help a charity if she wins the lottery, or she will help a charity if she won a charity. I saw the first sentence in an article. 

If the two sentences above are grammarly correct, what are the different meanings between them and 

she will help a charity if she wins the lottery, and she would help a charity if she won the lottery.

Thank you very much,