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!

"Conditional III" in English Grammar

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:

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

By using third conditional, the speaker is imagining a different past where they remembered her number.

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

The sentence indicates that in reality he ate that spoiled fish.

Punctuation

When the 'if clause' comes at the beginning of the sentence, it must be followed by a comma (,). Here is an example.

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

However, if the sentence begins with the main clause, there is no need to put a comma between the two clauses. For example:

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

Conditional III

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:

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

This is an impossible situations, because it never happened and the past event cannot be changed.

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

Here, 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 indicates a specific meaning. Compare the following sentences:

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

'Would' indicates that if he had finished high school, he would have certainly gone to college.

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

'Might' indicates that even if he had finished high school, it is not certain that he would have gone to college.

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

'Could' indicates that 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

Loading recaptcha

You might also like

Zero Conditional

bookmark
In order to add to your bookmarks you must sign in to your account
'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

bookmark
In order to add to your bookmarks you must sign in to your account
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

bookmark
In order to add to your bookmarks you must sign in to your account
Type 2 conditional sentences talk about situations that are hypothetical. There is a possibility that the condition will be fulfilled.

Mixed Conditional

bookmark
In order to add to your bookmarks you must sign in to your account
Sometimes the two parts of a conditional sentence refer to different times. This is called a mixed conditional. Ready to learn?
LanGeek
Download LanGeek app