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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

Language level

Intermediate: B1
Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

Hello CHEKYTAN,

An unreal past condition can have an unreal past result or an unreal present result. For the former, we use would have + verb3; for the latter, we use would verb.

For example:

If I hadn't missed the train, I wouldn't have been late for the meeting.

(unreal past condition, unreal past result)

If it hadn't rained, I wouldn't be running for the meeting now.

(unreal past condition, unreal present result)

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter,

I understand it now. Thanks for the help.

Sorry for bothering you,could you help me please?During doing the test,I'm sometimes confused between the second conditional and Present/Past mixed conditional,because they both have the same part "If + past simple".For example,in test 2,the question is "If I didn't have so much work this week, I _____ with you yesterday."After being corrected by "show answer",I realized in this sentence the key word is "yesterday",right?So it must only be a imagined and impossible result in past?If the question is "If I didn't have so much work this week, I _____ with you today(or tomorrow).",the answer will be"would be",is that right?
On the other hand,is there another difference that "If + past simple" in second conditional are impossible but those in mixed conditionals are not true?
If the question is"If I didn't have so much work this week, I _____ with you."so should we tell the context of the conversation?If "the speaker has much work" is true,so the answer should more likely be "would have been" ?I'm not sure,could you help giving some proper examples?Thank you!

Hello Fred Zhong

You are right in thinking that the words 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow' are key, because they indicate whether you are speaking about an imaginary past or possible future result.

With 'yesterday', you have mixed second and third conditional: 'If I didn't have so much work this week, I would have been with you yesterday'. The 'would have been' form (third conditional) is necessary here because it is the only one that speaks about an imaginary past situation, i.e. something that did not happen.

With 'today' or 'tomorrow', 'would be' is the correct form, since it's speaking about a time after the present. It is also hypothetical, meaning it is not expected to happen, but strictly speaking it is still possible.

I'm not completely sure I understand what you are asking in your last paragraph. The grammar of the sentence indicates that the speaker does indeed have too much work this week. This might not be true in reality, but the grammar specifies that 1) the speaker has too much work and 2) if they didn't have so much work, things would be (or would have been) different.

If the sentence on the exam is just 'If I didn't have so much work this week, I ___ with you' with no other context (e.g. the word 'yesterday' or 'tomorrow'), both 'would be' and 'would have been' are correct answers, though probably your teacher had the second conditional in mind.

I hope this helps you make sense of things. If not, please don't hesitate to ask again.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hello. Could you help me?
The following sentence is third conditional.
- If the wheel hadn't been invented, the world would have been very different now.
However, some colleagues say that it's wrong and it must written "mixed conditionals like that: - If the wheel hadn't been invented, the world would be very different now.
Which one is correct, please?
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The phrase would have been has a past time meaning, so it is incompatible with the time reference now. Either of these is possible:

If the wheel hadn't been invented, the world would have been very different.

If the wheel hadn't been invented, the world would be very different now.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Are the following two sentences correct or not? If not correct, what's wrong with them?
- Tarek would not have caught that bus unless he had run very fast.
- Unless you had rung me, I wouldn't have come to see you.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam

The first sentence is correct, but in the second 'unless' is not correct -- instead it should have 'if ... not' ('If you hadn't rung me, I wouldn't have come to see you').

This is explained in detail on this Cambridge Dictionary page. I think that will clear it up for you, but if you have any other questions, please let us know.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Ahmed Imam

We can't use 'unless' with situations that we know are true. You first sentence only works if the speaker is speculating, i.e. they don't know if he ran and caught the bus. But if you were the speaker and you know that he caught the bus (because you were on the bus and saw this), then you would have to change the sentence to one using 'if ... not' ('If Tarek hadn't run very fast, he wouldn't have caught that bus.')

The second sentence isn't possible because the speaker is talking about him/herself. This means they must know whether or not it is true. Therefore a sentence with 'unless' is nonsensical -- only 'if ... not' is possible.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Could you please help me? Is "have got" in the following sentence correct?
- The students are very surprised if I have got all their names right.
Thank you.

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