Conditional III

Conditional III indicates an impossible, hypothetical and unreal condition in the past and its probable result in the past. To learn about them, start reading!

Intermediate
"Conditional III" in English Grammar

What Are Third Conditionals?

Third conditionals are the only conditionals that are about the past. It describes imaginary or hypothetical situations in the past.
When we use third conditionals, we are talking about the result of something that did not happen.
We are imagining a different past.

Conditional III: Structure

The structure of third conditionals is:

Take a look at some examples:

If I had remembered her number, I would have called her.

In reality, I did not remember her number. Therefore, I did not call her. By using third conditional, the speaker is imagining a different past.

If he hadn't eaten that spoiled fish, he wouldn't have been sick.

You can understand that in fact he ate that spoiled fish.

Punctuation

When the 'if clause' comes first (at the beginning of the sentence) do not forget to put a comma (,) after it. Here is the example.

If you had told me you were coming, I would have made dinner.

If you begin your sentence with the main clause, you do not need to put a comma between the two clauses.

I would have made dinner if you had told me you were coming.

Conditional III

Second vs. Third Conditionals

The second and third conditionals both indicate a hypothetical situation, but in the third conditional, we are imagining a hypothetical situation in the past. While in the second conditional, we are imagining a hypothetical situation in the present or future. Compare these two sentences:

If I had won one million dollars, I would have bought a house.

This type of conditional is used for impossible situations, because it never happened. We cannot change the past.

If I won one million dollars, I would buy a house.

This type of conditional is used for unlikely situations in the present or immediate future. The condition is not impossible, but it is improbable.

Conditional Tenses

Conditional tenses are used to create the main clause of a conditional sentence, which expresses hypothetical or unlikely situations. Modal verbs like could, would, should and might are examples of conditional verbs. Each of these modals indicate a certain meaning:

If he had finished high school, he would have gone to college.

'Would' is the most common modal verb we use in the third conditional. If he had finished high school, he certainly would have gone to college.

If he had finished high school, he might have gone to college.

If he had finished high school, maybe he would have gone to college, but we are not certain.

If he had finished high school, he could have gone to college.

If he had finished high school, he would have been able to go to college.

Review

When we use third conditional, we are talking about the result of something that did NOT happen. In fact, we are imagining a different past.

Structure

Here is the structure:

if clause past perfect
main clause could/would/should + have + past participle

If I had remembered her number, I would have called her.

Comparison

second we are imagining a hypothetical situation in the present or future. If I won 1M dollars, I would buy a house.
third we are imagining a hypothetical situation in the past. If I had won 1M dollars, I would have bought a house.

Comments

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Zero Conditional

'If you don't eat or drink, you die'. 'If you heat water, it boils'. Zero conditional is used to talk about facts or situations which are always true.

Conditional I

We use the conditional Type 1 when we want to talk about situations we believe are real or possible in the future. 'If I study hard, I'll pass the exam.'

Conditional II

Type 2 conditional sentences talk about situations that are hypothetical. There is a possibility that the condition will be fulfilled.

Mixed Conditional

Sometimes the two parts of a conditional sentence refer to different times. This is called a mixed conditional. Ready to learn?

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