Conditionals 2

Do you know how to use third and mixed conditionals?

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

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Submitted by emidepegaso on Mon, 13/12/2021 - 21:21

Permalink

Nice lesson helpful

Submitted by 0933810273 on Tue, 02/11/2021 - 02:08

Permalink

Hello everyone!
I wanted to check my level of understanding about structure "Conditionals"
Actually, This structure was too difficult for me to completely understood.
Especially that it was Mixed Conditonals
Oke, now I would write some setences with Structure "If".
1)If I hadn't studied about structer of conditionals,i wouldn't have known how to use it.
2)If i hadn't studied about structure of conditionals, i would know how to use it now
3)If i were you,i had studied about structure of conditionals.
Finally,I hope that you could check my sentences of conditionals,Thanks a lots.
I wish you met a lot of good things in your life.

Hi 0933810273,

It's good to see your practice. :)

Sentences 1 and 2 use the third conditional, which shows an unreal past (i.e., a past situation that did NOT actually happen - we are just imagining it).

Sentence 1 is grammatically correct. It means that you did study the structure, and you do know how to use it.

Sentence 2 is grammatically correct too, but the meaning is a bit confusing. It means that you did study the structure, but you do NOT know how to use it now. This can be the case if, for example, the studying made you feel more confused. Is that what you meant?

In sentence 3, 'if I were you' is normally used to give advice to someone. It's part of a second conditional (unreal present or future). It should be --> If I were you, I would study ...

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Firstly,I wanted to say "Thank You" beacasue you gave for me a lot of useful advices.And then, i wanted to talk to you about the second sentence, i thinked that you understood my mean exactly :)). By writting this sentence which conflicted with my idea. Had you not given for me these advices, i wouldn't have know about my mistake in gramma. Finally,I sincerly thank you again. I hope that you will have many good and lucky things in the life.Bye for now T

Hi 0933810273,

I'm glad! Thanks to you for coming to our site and posting your interesting question. :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by samchua on Fri, 29/10/2021 - 08:32

Permalink

Hello,

Please can I check if this is correct?

If he recorded it, he would have told me. (He didn't record it so he didn't tell me)

Thanks!

Hello samchua,

If I understand you correctly, a full third conditional expresses your idea: 'If he had recorded it, he would have told me'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tony1980 on Thu, 21/10/2021 - 13:59

Permalink

Hi Jonathan

Thanks for your help highly appreciated by me

1)If I didn’t drink too much I’d feel ok
2) if I don’t drink too much I’ll feel ok
Both of the sentences express a general truth so what’s the difference???

A conditional sentence by rule expresses an unreal or real situation
Can you please show me a sentence expressing a real situation.

Best regards
Andi

Hi Andi,

The difference is in how likely these situations are. In 1, the speaker thinks this is unlikely to happen, or even impossible. He/She probably will continue to drink too much. In 2, it is possible or even likely to happen. He/She has a reasonable chance of not drinking too much.

Here are some conditional sentences showing real situations.
-- If water is heated to 100 degrees, it boils.
-- If you get 10 marks, you pass the test.

You can find more examples and explanation about these structures on our Conditionals 1 page. I hope it helps! https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/intermediate-to-upper-i…

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan
Thanks again for your response

So you’re saying that based in your sentences only a zero conditional expresses a real situation and all other conditionals are unreal??

It / there seems to be a lack of communication.

Which one is correct it or there and can you explain why please.

Best regards
Andi

Hi Andi,

A zero conditional expresses a general truth (real situation). A first conditional expresses a realistic or probable future situation. This is also a real situation - a real future. (Here, 'real' means that the situation has a reasonable chance of occurring in the future, in the speaker's opinion. 'Real' doesn't mean that the situation has already occurred, or is occurring.) If I say, for example, "When I finish work, I'll call you", I'm saying that I will do this with a high degree of certainty (i.e., a real future).

A second conditional expresses an unreal present or future situation, and a third condition expresses an unreal past situation. Here, 'unreal' means these situations are improbable or impossible.

In answer to your second question, both are grammatically possible. 'It' is a reference word, so it needs to refer to another thing mentioned in the conversation (e.g., a problem that the speaker described). 'There' is also possible. 'There seems to be' is a common phrase to introduce the existence or presence of something. We need to know the context in which this sentence is said to know whether 'there' or 'it' is more suitable.

I hope that helps :)

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan
Thanks a lot for your response
If it wasn’t raining we could go and play tennis.
This is a situation in the present, correct me if I’m wrong, and why “ if it didn’t rain “ isn’t possible here.

If they didn’t want to be successful, people wouldn’t buy these books.
This is a second conditional talking about unreal situations in the present or future.
But how can this be a situation occurring in the present or future when in the if clause we have past tense and in the main clause, future in the past??

Best regards
Andi

Hi Andi,

In the first sentence, it is (presumably) raining at the moment the speaker says this sentence, and we understand rain as something temporary (i.e., not something that will last forever, or something that is always true). So, we need the continuous form ("If it wasn't raining") to show that. If we say "If it didn't rain", that would refer to a permanent state of not raining, i.e., we imagine what would happen if there was no rain at any time, and it does not say anything about whether it is raining at the moment of speaking or not.

In the second sentence, it's important to understand that past verb forms do not always mean past time. They can also refer to unreal present/future situations, as in this example.

The main clause doesn't show future in the past. For comparison, here is an example of future in the past: "The company thought that people wouldn't buy these books." As you can see, the words are similar to your example, and the time of "people wouldn't buy these books" is after the time of "The company thought", but the timeframe of the whole sentence is the past (unlike your sentence, which has a present/future timeframe).

I hope that helps.

Jonathan
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan
Thank you so much for the long response very helpful and I really appreciate it
Best regards
Andi

Submitted by GoldenTeacher1 on Sun, 17/10/2021 - 21:51

Permalink

Are there any other instances where we use commas in conditional sentences other than when the sentence begins with a dependent clause?

Hello GoldenTeacher1,

As you say, in general, we use a comma when a conditional begins with the dependent clause. I'm afraid I can't definitely say that there are no other circumstances when a comma needs to be used -- there are just too many possible situations. But if you have a specific situation in mind, please feel free to explain it to us and ask us about it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Natasa Tanasa on Fri, 27/08/2021 - 11:06

Permalink
Hello everyone, Could you help me with understanding when to use in the Second Conditional: "If I were..." and "If I was..."? Thank you a lot!

Hi Natasa Tanasa,

The short answer is that both If I were and If I was are acceptable, and the meaning is the same. But, there is a preference for were, especially in writing. 

There's a short explanation on this page (see the Second conditional section) and on this Grammar reference page, with some examples and exercises. I hope they help!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan

I’m sorry for commenting in another person’s reply but there is no comment option in here for me to post my comment.

1)If Paul hadn’t been an extreme athlete, Jordan might not have climbed Everest.

2)if Paul weren’t an extreme athlete, Jordan might not have climbed Everest.

What’s the difference between if clauses of 1) and 2) ?? Does 1) mean that Paul is still an extreme athlete and in 2) he is not??
Best regards
Andi

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

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

Permalink
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

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

Permalink
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 gsg238 on Mon, 22/03/2021 - 12:45

Permalink
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

Permalink
‘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

Permalink
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.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 06/03/2021 - 07:49

In reply to by Iman ELBorolos

Permalink

Hello Iman ELBorolos,

The difference is not really about something continuing or not - I think this is a confusing way to try to describe it. Rather, it's about whether the result is in the past or the present. For example:

1. If I had worked hard, I would have passed my exams.

I didn't work hard (unreal past condition); I didn't pass my exams (unreal past result)

2. If I had passed my exams, I would have a good job now.

I didn't pass my exams (unreal past condition); I don't have a good job (unreal present result)

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by gsg238 on Tue, 23/02/2021 - 17:14

Permalink
Peter made a mistake and he told John about it. John kept the secret for some time. Presently, John tells Mary about it. In this context, do I use conditional 2 or 3: He knew, if they found out, they would fire him or He knew, if they had found out, they would have fired him

Hello gsg238

Who tells whom and when is irrelevant here as 'he' in your sentences is speculating about the situation.

The first example (found out - would fire) is about the future. He is concerned about a possible, if unlikely, act by his employer in the future.

The second example (had found out - would have fired) is about the past. In this example, he is sure that they do not know as he has not been fired. This sentence means in effect the following: they did not find out because otherwise I would not have a job now.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sat, 30/01/2021 - 11:13

Permalink
Hello. Are the following two sentences correct? If so, what is the difference between them? - If I am checking the report, I don't answer any calls. - If I am checking the report, I won't answer any calls. Thank you.

Submitted by Jonathan R on Thu, 04/02/2021 - 12:52

In reply to by Ahmed Imam

Permalink

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Yes :) Both sentences are correct. Their meanings are very similar.

Both sentences mean that this person typically or normally does this. One meaning of will/won't is typical or normal behaviour (see this page for more examples).

But the second sentence has another possible meaning: it could refer to the future. It could be about tomorrow, for example.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by BobMux on Wed, 13/01/2021 - 15:59

Permalink
Hello The LearnEnglish Team, I would be really grateful if you could help me understand why first conditional has been used here: If your friends do not arrive by five, we will leave without them. Why does this situation need to be in first conditional? I think this should be in zero conditional.

Hello BobMux,

The form if + present (then) + present is used for general statements rather than particular situations. In your example, you are talking about a particular situation, so if + present (then) + will is the correct choice.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by BobMux on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 16:36

Permalink
Hello The LearnEnglish Team! I would like to know which conditional is the following sentence: If athletes today did not take their training so seriously, they would not have broken so many recordsi in recent years.

Hello BobMux,

That's the second type of mixed conditional explained on the page above.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot Mr Kirk, Could you help me understand it better again? In the main clause, does this words " they would not have broken so many records in recent years" mean that they have broken many records for some years in reality, actually?

Hello BobMux,

Yes, that's correct. The idea is that athletes take their training very seriously, and this has enabled them to break many records in recent years. If they hadn't been taking their training so seriously (in the recent past and now in the present), then we they wouldn't have broken records (in the recent) nor would they be breaking them nowadays.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Stellaaa on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 08:11

Permalink
If I hadn't stayed at late yesterday ,I would be in class now. Am I right?

Hello Stellaaa,

That's almost correct. We only use 'at' if we say where we were, so you can say this, for example:

If I hadn't stayed at the party late yesterday, I would be in class now.

If you don't say where you were, then you don't need 'at':

If I hadn't stayed late yesterday, I would be in class now.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Maychin on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 09:20

Permalink
Thank you so much for giving me the cahnce to be able to comment on this website.It is very kind of you.

Thanks to you for joining, Maychin :) We hope you enjoy your learning here.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Via on Thu, 15/10/2020 - 00:50

Permalink
Dear team, I'm confused about "Third conditional" and "Mixed conditional". Can I understand that "Third conditional" is unreal, like imagine a past that would never occurred and lead to a expected result. E.g, If I had studied Mathematics well, I would have scored high. While "Mixed conditional" is the event already occurred, but I would like to describe the situation of the event hadn't occurred? For example, I had broke my leg yesterday, when I'm skiing. E.g, If I hadn't ski, I wouldn't have broken my leg. And what is the difference between past tense and past participle? (I knew my grammer is terrible, but I had try my best to convey my ideas, please correct my mistakes) Thanks a lot.

Hello Via,

Can I understand that "Third conditional" is unreal, like imagine a past that would never occurred and lead to a expected result.

Yes, that's correct. The 'third conditional' describes an imaginary/counter-factual past condition and its imaginary/countrer-factual result.

 

'Mixed conditional' is a term given to conditional sentences which have more than one time reference. In other words, instead of being about a past conditon and a past result, you may have a past conditon and a present result. For example:

If I hadn't gone skiing, I wouldn't have broken my leg. [unreal past conditon, unreal past result]

If I hadn't gone skiing, I wouldn't be in hospital now. [unreal past conditon, unreal past result]

In the first sentence, the form is [if + past perfect > would have + past participle].

In the second sentence, the form is [if + past perfect > would + base form]

 

Remember that the terms 'first conditional', 'second conditional' etc. are really just useful labels. In reality, there are only two rules for conditonal forms:

1. Conditional sentences must be logical in terms of time: the condition must be earlier in time than the result.

2. Conditonal sentences are either about real situations or unreal situations. You cannot mix an unreal condition with a real result.

This means there are many possible patterns, of which 'first', 'second' etc. are only common examples.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by DaniWeebKage on Fri, 02/10/2020 - 12:34

Permalink
Dear team, Could you correct my sentences? If I had prepared a job interview carefully, I'd have the job now.(Past/Present) If I studied more, I'd have got high marks in each subject. (Present/Past) Also, Sir, I've learned that there have other 4 types of mixed conditions. In this Lesson, they were only 2 types. So, maybe others are less common or advanced. Should I have to study others? Ty

Hello Ty,

Well done -- the verb forms in your two sentences are correct!

Most of our grammar pages explain what we consider to be the most important aspects of that grammar, but, as you've noticed here, there is often much more. A comprehensive English grammar would take many hundreds, if not thousands, of pages.

Without knowing you better, I'm afraid it's difficult for me to make a useful recommendation. Sorry!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team