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:
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.
You can understand that in fact he ate that spoiled fish.
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 begin your sentence with the main clause, you do not need to put a comma between the two clauses.
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:
This type of conditional is used for impossible situations, because it never happened. We cannot change the past.
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 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:
'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, maybe he would have gone to college, but we are not certain.
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.||