Do you know how to use third and mixed conditionals?

Third conditionals and mixed conditionals

Conditionals are sentences with two clauses – an if clause and a main clause – that are closely related. Conditional sentences are often divided into different types.

Third conditional

Third conditional sentences describe the past. They describe something that didn't happen.

  • If I'd studied harder at school, I would have gone to university.

He didn't study very hard and he didn't go to university.

  • We wouldn't have got lost if you hadn't given me the wrong directions.

She wasn't given the correct directions and she didn't find her way.

  • She might have finished the exam if she'd had more time.

She didn't finish the exam and she didn't have more time.

In third conditional sentences, the structure is usually if + past perfect and would + perfect infinitive (e.g. have done). It's not important which clause comes first.

Notice that other modal verbs can be used instead of would (e.g. could, might, may)

Mixed conditionals

In mixed conditional sentences the time in the if clause is not the same as the time in the main clause. There can be various combinations.

  • If he'd gone to university, he might have a better job.

He didn't go to university (past)
He doesn't have a very good job. (present)
This sentence shows the present consequences of a past action.

  • If I'd won the competition, I'd be going to Florida next week.

She didn't win the competition (past)
She isn't going to Florida (future)
This sentence shows the future consequences of a past action.



Language level

Upper intermediate: B2


hello. In this sentence from Unay: I would have liked nothing more than to have achieved better results for you. could you please explain "to have achieved" why don't we use " to achieve"?

Hello MortazaAyabenzer,

Both forms are possible here. The perfect infinitive (to have achieved) adds emphasis to the fact that the action is no longer possible, but this is already clear from the first part of the sentence.



The LearnEnglish Team

hello. in this sentence: If you’ve been paying attention, you might have worked it out. I picked from BBC 6 minute courses. I am confused.because in 3rd conditional we should use past perfect in if part. but here is "have been paying" can you clarify why has he ignored the rule?

Hello MortazaAyabenzer

That is not a third conditional. 'have been paying' is present perfect continuous, which is essentially talking about the present, not an unreal past tense. Thus it's like a first conditional.

Does that help you make sense of it?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, this is part of news in Indian daily :

The state’s Act, if implemented, will allow groups like Deccan Education Society (including Fergusson) to form their own cluster universities.

' If implemented ...' it is in second conditional ; should it not be would( and not will ) in the result clause - like:
The state's act,if implemented, would allow groups like Deccan Education Society (including Fergusson) to form their own cluster universities.


Dipak Gandhi

Hello dipakrghandhi,

The sentence contains a reduced passive form which could be a present or a past form:

The state's Act, if it is implemented, will allow...

The state's Act, if it were implemented, would allow...

The use of will in the second clause tells us that the speaker is using a likely/real conditional; that is, they consider the situation in the if-clause to be a realistic possibility.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for reply sir.

The full form of reduced clause you gave in second sentence :

The state's Act, if it were implemented, will allow...

here, are we not mixing two conditionals - second conditional in if clause and first conditional in result clause. I know we can mix second and third conditionals but can we also mix second and first.


Dipak R Gandhi

Hello again dipakrgandhi,

I'm sorry for the confusion. My example should have read '...would allow...'. When I copied the original fragment from your question I forgot to change the second part. I have corrected the answer now.

We can create all kinds of conditonal structures provided we follow two rules:

1. The sentence must be logical in terms of sequence. In other words, the condition much come before the result in time.

2. The sentence as a whole (that is to say, both clauses) must either refer to a real/likely situation or an unreal/unlikely situation. We cannot mix these.

Thus, if we have an unreal condition ('if it were...') then we must have an unreal result ('...would...').



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir.

Hi guys,
Is it normal to use "had better" with conditional type two?
(the original sentence)If you're not in a hurry ,it would be a good idea to take the hotel shuttle.
(making a question using "had better" and conditional type two)
What had Jane better take if she were in a hurry?