Third conditional and mixed conditionals

Today I’m going to teach you all about the third conditional, and also the mixed conditionals.

First a quick caveat – If you’re not familiar with the zero, first and second conditional, then I suggest watching my lessons on these forms first, because, I’m going to talk about these forms very briefly in this lesson, but I am only going to go deep into the third conditional, and mixed conditionals.
If you don’t understand the zero, first and second conditional, then this lesson may be a little fast paced for you.

With that being said, let’s dive in.

All conditionals have an ‘if’ clause, and a ‘result’ clause.

All of the conditionals are used to talk about consequences. If this happens, then this happens…but they are used in slightly different ways.

For example, the zero conditional is for something that’s always true.
If you heat ice, it melts.
If + present tense, + present tense
If he is hungry, he cries.
Maybe talking about a little baby.
The tense is NOW. Normally a general fact.

Then an example of the first conditional:
If I lose my job, I will be upset.
If + present tense, + future tense
“I will”, means we are talking about the future.
About a future POSSIBILITY.
In fact, we often refer to this tense as the possible conditional, as there is about a 50/50 chance of the ‘if clause’ happening.
If I study hard, I will pass my English exam.
Talking about present – in general – if I study hard now and in the future – I will pass my exam.

Then we can mention the second conditional basics:
An example sentence:

If I lost my job, I would be upset.
If + past simple, + sub + would + base verb.
If I lost my job, I would be upset.
We often refer to this tense as the unlikely conditional.

The ‘if clause’ is unlikely to occur. Maybe a 10% chance.
I am imagining how I would feel if I lost my job NOW, OR IN THE FUTURE.
I would be upset.

Another example of the second conditional.
If I studied harder, I would pass the exam.
So I haven’t had the exam yet.
What this sentence is saying, is that it is unlikely that I will study harder, I know that I’m lazy.
I have accepted it.
But if I did study harder, I would pass – I am sure of it!
So once again, talking about the present, and the future.

And now we can talk about the third conditional – and we use this to talk about the past.
This is the key point! The past, the past, the past! Different to all our other conditionals!
Specifically, to talk about THE CONSEQUENCES OF SOMETHING THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN IN THE PAST.
Both the if clause, and the results clause, are talking about the PAST.

If I had lost my job, I would have been upset.
The form is – If + past perfect, sub + would have + past participle.

If I had lost my job, I would have been upset.
I am imagining how I would feel if something had happened in the past.
If this had happened, then this would have happened!
If I HAD lost my job, I WOULD have been very upset.

But luckily I didn’t lose my job, so I wasn’t upset!

Some more examples:

Let’s try it the other way around this time.
First I will give you the situation. The real situation.
So this is not the conditional – this is what really happened.
I took my Language test last month, but unfortunately, I didn’t pass my test. I didn’t study hard enough and because of this I didn’t pass my test.

Then we could use a conditional sentence. We could say:

If I had studied harder, I would have passed my language test.

I am imagining the consequences, of an imagined action in the past.
If I had studied harder, I would have passed.

And we must also remember our contractions so we don’t sound like a robot.
If I’d studied harder, I would’ve passed my exam.
Or we can say:
If I’d studied harder, I’d have passed my exam.
That’s actually nicer. Both contractions are correct, but to my ears, “I’d have” sounds slightly better. This is probably because many people, even native speakers, incorrectly say “would of” instead of “would’ve”, and this sounds very uneducated.
Even worse when they write “would of” instead of would’ve, so don’t fall into that trap!

Ok, another example:

We wouldn’t have been late if you had got out of bed earlier!
So this time, we have put the IF clause second, which you can do with ALL of the conditionals.
And when you put the IF clause second, you don’t use a comma.
We wouldn’t have been late if you’d got out of bed earlier!

Again, this is an imagined past situation.
What really happened – is we were late, because someone slept in!
But we are imagining – If you had got out of bed earlier, we wouldn’t have been late.

Alright, so I hope this is becoming a little clearer for you.
Let’s take a look at some of the different ways we can use the third conditional.

We can use other modal verbs instead of would. This is possible.
So we can replace would have, with could have or might have, but the meaning will change accordingly.

For example:

If I’d studied harder, I might’ve passed the test.

The modal verb ‘might’, carries meaning here, and it is expressing “maybe”.
It’s not as strong as “would”.
I would have passed – you are very confident that you would have passed.
Might have passed – yea – maybe – who knows!

And one with could:
If he had had the right tools, he could have fixed his car.

And you’ll notice the “had had” here. This often happens with third conditional sentences, because had is a past participle, which is part of the formula.
This is fine, there is nothing wrong with this. Some students get concerned with this had had, but it’s perfectly acceptable, and this is how you would write this third conditional sentence, especially in formal writing, essays etc.

When we speak third conditionals though, as mentioned, we always use contractions.
So then our sentence sounds much better.
If he’d had the right tools, he could’ve fixed the car.

Alright, now there is one other form of conditionals, and that is mixed conditionals.
And we can talk about these now, because mixed conditionals are used to talk about the present and the past in the same sentence – The IF clause will have a different tense to the RESULTS clause.
So, it makes sense that we mix third conditionals, because they are used for the PAST, with second conditionals, because they are used for present.

Let’s compare these 2 sentences –
If I had gone to the party on Saturday night, I would have had fun!
So this is third conditional isn’t it – both the IF clause, and the results clause are in the past.
But what about this?
If I had gone to the party on Saturday night, I would be tired NOW.
This sentence is a mixed conditional. The IF clause is the third conditional, talking about the hypothetical past, and the results clause is the second conditional, taking about a PRESENT result.
We could display that as – Past condition/present result.

Another example of a mixed conditional with past condition/present result.
If you hadn’t eaten the whole chocolate cake, you wouldn’t feel sick!
Again, we have the third conditional in the IF clause, hypothetical past, and we have the second conditional in the results clause, talking about NOW.

So that’s all a mixed conditional is – a combination of the second and third conditionals.

We can also use the second conditional in the IF clause, and the third conditional in the results clause.
This will then be present condition/past result.
A couple of examples:
If he was a nicer person, he wouldn’t have stolen your money!
Another one.
If my leg wasn’t sore, I’d have joined you on the hike.

Now…we can definitely proceed down the rabbit hole further and further, and talk about inversion, and some times when it is OK to use will and would in the IF clause, and using continuous aspect and modal verbs, but this is a lesson for another day. You cannot learn all of this in one bite, because you won’t remember a thing!

I hope that you found this lesson helpful.

Thanks everyone,

I wish you all the best, with your English goals, and life goals.

CHEERS!

Progressive English

www.progressive-english.ch