Conditional III for intermediate learners

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 hypothetical statement that is used to talk about a past event or situation that did not actually happen or was not fulfilled. It is often used to describe an unfulfilled dream or wish. In a third conditional sentence, it's as if we are describing or imagining a different version of the past had things been different.

Third Conditional: Structure

Like other conditional sentences, the third conditional consists of an 'if-clause' and a main clause that expresses the result of the condition. The structure of the third conditional is as follows:


To change a third conditional statement to a negative one, add 'not' after the auxiliary verb 'have' in the sentence. Take a look a the examples:

If I had gone to music school, I wouldn't have become a literature professor at the university.

Note that wouldn't have is the contracted from of would not have.

If they had done their homework completely, the teacher couldn't have blamed them.


When the if-clause is at the beginning of the sentence, remember to add a comma between the two clauses.

If he had bought that car, He could've turned rich by now.

However, if the main clause is placed at the beginning of the sentence, there is no need to add commas between the two clauses.

She should've called the police if she had heard a mysterious noise.


The third conditional is used to talk about a hypothetical or unreal situation that did not happen in the past. It is often used to describe a dream or wish that was not fulfilled, or a situation that could have happened differently had certain conditions been met.

If she had shouted louder, I could've rescued her.

Here, we are talking about an unreal past event.

If they had worked properly, the manager wouldn't have become so angry.

Second Conditionals 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.

If she had gone to school, she could've written the letter.

Here, we are talking about regretting something in the past.

If they bought that car, they could go to Istanbul next week.

In this example, there is a possibility to happen in the future.

Also, with regards to structure, the second conditional uses simple past + would/could/should, but the third conditional consists of past perfect + would/could/should + have + the past participle form of the verb.

Compare the following examples:

If they had practiced before their class, the teacher wouldn't have blamed them so severely.

If I went to church, I would be religious by now.


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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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