The third conditional (also called conditional type 3) is a structure used for talking about unreal situations in the past. This page will explain how the third conditional is formed, and when to use it. The structure of a third conditional sentenceLike the other conditionals, a third conditional sentence consists of two clauses, an "if" clause and a main clause: if clause | main clause | explanation |
If I had studied harder, | I would have passed the exam. | I failed the exam, because I didn't study hard enough. |
If the "if" clause comes first, a comma is usually used. If the "if" clause comes second, there is no need for a comma: main clause | if clause |
I probably would have passed the exam | if I had studied harder. |
We use different verb forms in each part of a third conditional: if clause | if + subject + past perfect verb* |
main clause | subject + would (OR could, OR might) have + past participle |
*The past perfect is formed with theauxiliary verb "had", and the past participle (or third form) of the verb. Note also that third conditional forms can be contracted: Full form | If I had studied harder, I probably would have passed the exam. |
Contracted form | If I'd studied harder, I probably would've passed the exam. |
Using the third conditionalThe third conditional is used to talk about things which DID NOT HAPPEN in the past. If your native language does not have a similar construction, you may find this a little strange, but it can be very useful. It is often used to express criticism or regret: Example | Explanation |
If you had driven more carefully, you would not have had an accident. | Criticism: You had an accident because you didn't drive carefully enough. |
If we had played a little better, we could have won the game. | Regret: We didn't play well, so we lost the game. |
If you had saved your money, you could have bought a computer. | Criticism: You didn't save your money, so now you [continua]
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