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 (115 votes)

Hello Username656602,

Although you might come across such examples from time to time they are certainly non-standard. There is a basic conceptual conflict in that they mix a real situation with an unreal result or vice-versa. There are many possible conditional constructions but they are all consistent in either being about real situations or unreal situations; we do not mix these.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by picrowcn on Fri, 15/03/2024 - 11:11

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Hi,

The answer to the following question is "were"

If my grandmother _____ alive, she would have loved to see me graduate.

Is it right?

Hello picrowcn,

Yes, it is correct. In second conditionals, it is possible to use 'were' for all subjects in the 'if' clause.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 23/02/2024 - 09:34

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Hello Team, Could you please help me? Which form of verb is correct in the following sentence?

  • If you ( stop - stopped ) smoking, you might feel healthier.

    I think both are OK, right?

    Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Both forms are possible. Might can be used in both present/future real conditional structures (stop) and present/future unreal conditional structures (stopped).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by SepiEnglish on Tue, 06/02/2024 - 06:38

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Hello. I am an English teacher abroad. Few days ago I used a structure to make a mixed conditional question.
I was told the sentence was incorrect, even though all the sources say otherwise.
The sentence was “what would you have done if you inherited a large amount of money?”
If + past simple >> would have + past participle.
Could you please clarify?

Hello SepiEnglish,

It is certainly possible that you could hear someone use the sentence that you wrote, and the meaning would be clear.

It is, however, technically not correct because the inheriting of the money spoken about here must be in an imagined past time. The correct form would be 'if you had inherited', which clearly shows this imagined past time. 'if you inherited' suggests an imaginary present or future (not a past).

As the explanation above mentions, it is possible to use 'if' + past simple with 'would have' + past participle, but the ideas expressed are still subject to the laws of physics (so to speak!). In other words, it's strange/illogical to talk about what you would have done in the past if you maybe inherited money later today or tomorrow.

Does that make sense?

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish

Profile picture for user berckjr

Submitted by berckjr on Thu, 01/02/2024 - 14:19

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I've got a question on this subject exploring the possibilities on these conditionals. I've wondered if the following sentences they correct grammarly or if they can be use in spoken language.

If happiness is a destination, I meet you there.
If happiness have been a destination, I meet you there.
If happiness is a destination, I will meet you there.
If happiness have been a destination, I will meet you there.
If happiness were a destination, I would meet you there.
If happiness were a destination, I could meet you there.
I wish happiness be a destination, I would meet you there.
If happiness had been a destination, I would have met you there.
If happiness were a destination, I would have met you there.
If happiness had been a destination, I would meet you there.
If happiness were a destination, I might meet you there.
If happiness were being a destination, I would have met you there.
If happiness were being a destination, I would meet you there.

Thank you.

Hi berckjr,

Let me add a few comments!

  1. If happiness is a destination, I meet you there. - not grammatically correct, as the present simple shows a regular or repeated action, not a single future action. It should be "I will meet ...".
  2. If happiness have been a destination, I meet you there. - the present perfect suggests that this is already finished, so the second part of the sentence doesn't logically follow. Also see correction 1 above.
  3. If happiness is a destination, I will meet you there. - fine!
  4. If happiness have been a destination, I will meet you there. - "I will meet you" is fine, but see correction 2.
  5. If happiness were a destination, I would meet you there. - fine. This means that the speaker thinks that the sentence is untrue or unlikely to be true.
  6. If happiness were a destination, I could meet you there. - fine. This sounds more like a suggestion than sentence 5.
  7. I wish happiness be a destination, I would meet you there. - after "wish" it should be a past form (not "be"). "I wish happiness were a destination" is a complete independent clause. After that, you can't put a comma and then another independent clause (unless you also add a connecting word/phrase).
  8. If happiness had been a destination, I would have met you there. - fine! This is about something that did not actually happen in the past.
  9. If happiness were a destination, I would have met you there. - fine. "I would have met you" means that this would have already happened, i.e. before the moment of speaking (unlike 5 and 6).
  10. If happiness had been a destination, I would meet you there. - OK, but "had been" is an unreal past, so it would fit better with something else about the past e.g. "I would have met you there".
  11. If happiness were a destination, I might meet you there. - fine. This is more tentative than sentence 5.
  12. If happiness were being a destination, I would have met you there. - there is no apparent reason to say "were being". It emphasises the continuousness of the action, but "be" is already a state. This structure is normally used to describe a person's behaviour which is considered atypical or temporary (e.g. "You're being very helpful today" - it implies that the person is not normally so helpful). 
  13. If happiness were being a destination, I would meet you there. - see comment 12.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team