What Are Third Conditionals?
The third conditional is a type of conditional sentence that deals with hypothetical or unreal situations in the past that did not actually happen. It is often used to describe a different version of the past that could have happened if certain conditions were met. The third conditional is often used to talk about unfulfilled dreams, wishes, or missed opportunities in the past.
Third Conditional: Structure
The structure of a third conditional sentence includes an 'if-clause' that presents a hypothetical past condition using the past perfect tense, and a 'main clause' that indicates the hypothetical past result using the modal perfect verb 'would have' plus the past participle form of the verb. Thus, the structure is as follows:
Take a look at some examples:
By using third conditional, the speaker is imagining a different past where they remembered her number.
The sentence indicates that in reality he ate that spoiled fish.
When the 'if clause' comes at the beginning of the sentence, it must be followed by a comma (,). Here is an example.
However, if the sentence begins with the main clause, there is no need to put a comma between the two clauses. For example:
Second vs. Third Conditionals
The main difference between the second and third conditional structures is that the third conditional is used to talk about a hypothetical or unreal situation in the past that did not actually happen. On the other hand, the second conditional is used to talk about an unreal situation in the present or future that is unlikely to happen.
The two also differ in terms of structure, where the second conditional uses simple past + would/could/should + base form of the verb, but the third conditional consists of past perfect* + would/could/should + have + the past participle form of the verb.
Compare these two sentences:
This is an impossible situations, because it never happened and the past event cannot be changed.
Here, the condition is not impossible, but it is improbable.
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 indicates a specific meaning. Compare the following sentences:
'Would' indicates that if he had finished high school, he would have certainly gone to college.
'Might' indicates that even if he had finished high school, it is not certain that he would have gone to college.
'Could' indicates that if he had finished high school, he would have been able to go to college.
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.
Here is the structure:
|if clause||past perfect|
|main clause||could/would/should + have + past participle|
|second||we are imagining a hypothetical situation in the present or future.||
|third||we are imagining a hypothetical situation in the past.||
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'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.
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.'
Type 2 conditional sentences talk about situations that are hypothetical. There is a possibility that the condition will be fulfilled.