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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Hello Abdullah.23,

It's possible to use that combination of verb tenses, but in this particular situation it doesn't really make sense in English.

For example, you could say 'If the train had been on time, I would be at the meeting now' and this would be correct. Like the incorrect answer you were asking about, the verbs are 'had been' and 'would be' (though of course it's not negative).

The problem with 'If the train had been on time, I wouldn't miss the meeting' is that when the speaker knows arriving to the meeting on time is impossible, in a sense the meeting has already been missed. In other words, even if the meeting hasn't started yet, if we know there is no way we can arrive, we consider that we've already missed it. Pyschologically-speaking, missing the meeting isn't really present or future -- it's already passed.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Robertas on Thu, 15/09/2022 - 04:34

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Hi The LearnEnglish Team,

This sentence is from Mixed Conditionals, Present/Past section:
"It's really important. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have called you on your holiday."

I understand the speaker is speaking in present because this part indicates this: "It's really important. ...". So why to use 3rd Conditional (past perfect structure)? I think it would sound better "... , I wouldn't call you..". I understand I can't use second conditional because situation is possible or likely or even is happening currently. Is this place again where I shouldn't pay attention to tenses used here and more to conditional description? Even for latter case, it is confusing because the situation is in present.
Tell me I am wrong here, and I really will be lost to understand situation :-D

Hi Robertas,

In any conditional sentence we have two clauses: the condition clause (generally with 'if') and the result clause. The clauses must agree in two ways:

  • they must both be about either a real or an imaginary situation (so you cannot mix a real/likely condition with an unreal/hypothetical result)
  • the events described must be logical in terms of time, meaning that the condition cannot be later than the result (so you cannot have a past result of a present condition, for example)

Your question is really about the second of these requirements. As you point out, the past perfect result appears to be earlier than the condition (expressed with would + verb). However, there is a logic here. The action of calling is fixed in time: it happened in the past, so the past perfect is needed. However, the condition is not fixed in time: it is something that is generally true. The issue is an important one in general terms, not just at one moment in time.

The construction is actually quite common when the condition refers to a person's character or opinion - something we see as generally true, even through they change over time. For example:

If he wasn't so impatient, he wouldn't have shouted at you.

I wouldn't have agreed to leave my job and go abroad if I didn't love you so much!

 

I hope that helps to clarify it for you.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry for writing again but I used not to leave confusions in my life. I understand concept which you said about general terms, for example, in this sentence: "I wouldn't have agreed to leave my job and go abroad if I didn't love you so much!" you can't love just for 1 day.

However, this sentence in my original post and your given "If he wasn't so impatient, he wouldn't have shouted at you." are different because it doesn't say anything if it is general or speaking about situation in the past or even in the present because from "The LearnEnglish Team's" answers earlier I learnt tense structure doesn't indicate in what time something happened, happens, will happen. I mean, it a lot depends from more information in context.

Hello again Robertas,

In my original reply I said this: "The construction is actually quite common when the condition refers to a person's character or opinion - something we see as generally true, even through they change over time"

In the sentence "If he wasn't so impatient, he wouldn't have shouted at you" the speaker is describing the person's character: he is an impatient person. You could, of course, choose to describe the person's action at that moment rather than their general character and in this case you would use "hadn't been". Thus, we can contrast an if-clause with a general meaning with an if-clause about an action/behaviour at a particular moment in time:

If he wasn't so impatient, he wouldn't have shouted at you. [he is an impatient person]

If he hadn't been so impatient, he wouldn't have shouted at you. [he was impatient at that moment but perhaps is not generally impatient]

Your original sentence can be similarly read in two ways:

It's really important. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have called you on your holiday. [this is an important matter]

It was really important. If it hadn't been, I wouldn't have called you on your holiday. [the matter was important at that moment but may not be at other times; note the use of the past tense in the first sentence, showing that the importance was specific to a particular moment]

These are subjective assessments, of course, which is why the speaker can use either form: how they see the situation and the context will determine the form that is used.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mary_Oleksienko on Sun, 04/09/2022 - 10:45

Permalink

Hi there!

Recently, I found this interesting sentence in one grammar book:
" If Lopez wins gold at the next Olympics, he has said that he will retire from athletics".

I know that, if we use Present Perfect in the If clause, thus we emphasize the dependency of one (main) clause on another (if-clause). Also that we can use "will" in indirect speech when we report general developments or something, that it's happening right now, and report it in a little time after someone's speech.
But this sentence looks like we cannot join both of these rules under my interpretation.

Could you please explain to me, how we use the grammar part in this sentence, namely the Report Speech in the Conditional part of the sentence, and how each part impacts to the other?

Thank you

Hello Mary,

To my eyes, this sentence is a variation of a sentence I think you'll find it easier to make sense of:

Lopez has said that if he wins gold at the next Olympics, he will retire from athletics.

In this case, we have an ordinary-looking first conditional embedded in reported speech.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Robertas on Fri, 02/09/2022 - 00:05

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Hi,
I don't understand.
Why we can use this example below if we can use second conditional in this same example below:
"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."

Please explain what is difference. Thank you in advance.
Regards,
Robertas

Hi Robertas,

The second conditional can't express the same meaning as this sentence, because its timeframe is different. I'll try to explain.

  • If I hadn't got the job in Tokyo, I wouldn't be with my current partner.

In this example, the condition is an unreal past condition, i.e., something different to what actually happened in the past (If I hadn't got the job in Tokyo - it means that I actually did get the job in the past, and I'm imagining how my life now would be different if I hadn't got it).

The second conditional is different because the condition is not about something that actually happened in the past. It's about something that may happen in the present or future. For example:

  • If I got the job, I'd move to Tokyo.

This means I'm imagining getting the job in the present or future (and that I consider it unlikely or even impossible). It does not mean that I got the job in the past.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team