The Third Conditional

Hi English learners. Welcome to a new lesson. We will be learning about the third conditional.

We use the third conditional to talk about unreal past events. 

  • I could have got into that dress if I hadn’t eaten so much. (but I did eat too much, so I couldn’t get into that dress)
  • If he had realized the traffic light was red, he would have stopped. (but it’s too late now)
  • You wouldn’t have missed the train if you had run. (but he didn’t run so he missed the train)
The structure of the third conditional is:

If + Past Perfect -would/could/might have + past participle

  • If I had known him earlier, I would have warned him.
  • If we hadn’t been busy last night, we could have joined you for dinner.
  • If Martin had written that email, he might have used more courteous phrases.

The “if clause” doesn’t necessarily have to be in the first place. 

  • We could have saved more money if we had spent it more reasonably.
  • Sandra could have passed out if she hadn’t had a glass of water.
The difference between the second and the third conditionals

Both the second and third conditionals express unreal situations and events. We use the second conditional to talk about an unreal situation in the present and imagine its results in the present or future. However, the third conditional describes a situation that didn’t exist or didn’t happen in the past.

  • If you learned more, you could pass that exam. (he still has a chance to pass the exam)
  • If you had learned more, you could have passed that exam. (it’s all in the past, we can only imagine what would have happened)

Click here to learn more about the zero conditional

Click here to learn more about the first conditional

You can click here to learn more about the second conditional

Click here to learn more about the words and phrases you can use instead of “if”

Do the exercise to perfect your knowledge
  1. I ……….at home if I …….. you were coming. (be, know)
  2. Maria sacked if she so irresponsible.(be, not be)
  3. If it ………. all day, we ……….. a picnic in the park. (not rain, can have)
  4. I ……… at the meeting if I ………. this morning. (be, not oversleep)
  5. You ……..me a lot of trouble if you ……… me where they were. (save, tell)
  6. If you …….. to my directions, you wouldn’t have got lost, (listen, not get lost)
  7. I ………… longer if I ……….  in such a hurry. (stay, not be)
  8. If we ……… that you could drive, we ……….you. (know, call)
  9. I ………. on time for dinner if I …….. the train.(be, not miss)
  10. He ……… injured if he ……a helmet. (not be, wear)

Click here to download the PDF with the lesson on the third conditional and do the exercise.

Third conditional
Third conditional

Answer key

1.would have been, had known, 2. wouldn’t have been, hadn’t been, 3. hadn’t rained, could have had 4. would have been, hadn’t overslept, 5. would have saved, had told,  6. had listened, wouldn’t have got lost, 7. would have stayed, hadn’t been, 8. had known, would have called, 9. would have been, would have been, wear

My Lingua Academy

My Lingua Academy is an online school of English language. We give one-on-one lessons to students of English of all ages and all levels of knowledge all around the world. With us you can prepare for written assignments and exams, attend a general or business English course, or have conversation classes with qualified English teachers who have years of experience.

1 Comment

Past Perfect Tense - My Lingua Academy · 7 May 2023 at 8:48 am

[…] Learn more about the third conditional here […]

Leave a Reply