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 jiyi on Thu, 29/11/2018 - 04:20

dear teacher, Thank you so much for replying. It was actually a post in this comment section from August 2016. btw, I am sorry, but I have to ask help again. I just want to clarify some : 1. Actually, I am already aware about the tricky part of ' have ' as you've mentioned. But I am having difficulty to understand where these sentences belong to. For instance, If I didn't want to make a third conditional with my first sentence ( If I had kissed her, I would have to..) is it structurally a mixed conditionals ( a combination of 3rd and 2nd conditional)? because from my point of view, the clauses in that sentence have different time period (one in the past and the other one is in the future) and I was also using 'have to' as a way to talk obligation instead of using it to make a perfect form, is it true? 2. And for the second sentence ( If I kissed.., I would have to..). If this is a correct sentence, then is the meaning of that sentence functioning like a 2nd conditional ('if I kissed..' as a present or future hypothetical situation-->meaning: if I ever kiss the girl someday, then i must apologize to her)? sorry for bothering you, I need such clarification because I found that this way is what works well for my studying. Thank you again.

Hi again jiyi,

Sentence 1 is indeed a mixed conditional (with third conditional in the first part and second conditional in the second part) and it is grammatical. 'had kissed' refers to an action that could have happened in the past (but did not) and 'would have to apologise' refers to an imaginary action in the present or future (that also isn't happening).

Sentence 2 is a second conditional construction, with a verb in the past simple ('kissed') in the 'if'-clause and 'would' + base form in the other clause. Your explanation correctly explains the idea of the sentence.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jiyi on Wed, 28/11/2018 - 01:16

Dear teachers, I,ve read a few of the comments here but I am having difficulty to understand some of the examples given: 1. 'If I had kissed the girl, I would have to apologize to her.' I had a debate with my friend last night because she thought that this is a 3rd conditional (because of the 'would have') , but I think that this is more like a mixed conditionals, am I right? 2. You said that: 'If I kissed the girl, I would have to apologize to her' is wrong, because it combines real and unreal situation. I don't really get it. Can you please explain this with more details(which one is real and unreal) ? I thought that this was true because it follows a 2nd conditional ( and I think the questioner was thinking about present hypothetical situation) ? But you gave another example instead: 'If I kissed the girl, I will have to apologize to her.' which obviously has different meaning( not hypothetical). Please help me to understand this. I am confuse. Thank you very much :)

Hi jiyi,

I'm afraid I can't find the examples you are speaking of on this page. In sentence 1, the second verb would need to be 'would have had' for it to be a full third conditional structure. Sentence 2 looks correct to me.

I think what might be confusing you is the form 'to have to', which indicates obligation. It can be confusing, because 'have' is also part of the 'would have + past participle' form that is used in the third conditional. If you changed the second part to just 'apologise' (instead of 'have to apologise'), then you'd get:

1st conditional: If I kiss her, I will apologise
2nd conditional: If I kissed her, I would apologise
3rd conditional: If I had kissed her, I would have apologised

I hope that clears it up for you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Wed, 26/09/2018 - 21:36

Could you please explain" wouldn't+ verb"? For example: I wouldn't leave the office until I had checked that all the doors were locked. My question is: shouldn´t we use "didn't leave" instead of "wouldn´t leave" or is it correct as it is. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

What is correct here depends on the situation and what the speaker means. If this sentence is about a specific past action, then you are right, 'didn't leave' is the best form. 'would' can be used to speak about past habitual actions, however, so it is actually possible to use it here if that's what the speaker means.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Hopefinder

Submitted by Hopefinder on Wed, 12/09/2018 - 08:43

Hello everyone, first I would like to thank you all for the extraordinary efforts you are doing. Could you kindly correct me for the following sentences? 1)) Supposed we are in summer and I would say: " She would go skiing if it snowed tomorrow" ; I imagine it had a chance to snow tomorrow, even in hot summer. 2)) In the same day which it supposed to snow, but did not, I would say: "She would go skiing now if it had snowed." 3)) The day after , I would say: "She would have gone skiing if it had snowed yesterday." Am I using "if" correctly? Thank you in advance and greetings.

Submitted by MariaMafalda on Wed, 15/08/2018 - 18:24

Hi everyone @TheLearnEnglishTeam. I thought I knew all the rules related to conditional sentences until I came across the following sentence uttered by a native speaker (a very famous native speaker, by the way). This is the sentence: "If we didn’t build the public infrastructure in the early 20th century to support mass electrification, only the wealthy would have had heat and running water". My question is: shouldn´t he have started the "if" clause using "If we hadn´t built". This would make more sense to me. Am I wrong? Thank you for your kind reply. Cheers!