VerbAbout VerbsAction VerbsCausative VerbsContractionsDo and MakeFinite and Nonfinite VerbsGerundInfinitive FormInversionLinking VerbsModal VerbsMay and MightMoodsPhrasal VerbsSay and TellShallStative VerbsThird Person SingularUsed toRegular VerbsIrregular VerbsVerb FormsCompound Verbs
ConditionalConditionalZero ConditionalFirst ConditionalSecond ConditionalThird ConditionalMixed ConditionalInversion in Conditional Sentences
Passive VoicePassive VoicePresent Simple PassivePresent Continuous PassivePast Simple PassivePast Continuous PassivePerfect Tenses PassiveFuture Simple PassiveGoing to PassiveSay / Believe / SupposeGet + Participle
Adverbs of FrequencyAdverbs of FrequencyAdverbs of Frequency - Position in Sentence
QuestionsQuestion TagsRhetorical QuestionsEcho Questions
Reported SpeechReported SpeechModals in Reported SpeechReported Commands and RequestsReported QuestionsPresent Perfect in Reported SpeechFuture Perfect in Reported Speech
Irregular VerbsIrregular Verbs - GroupsIrregular Verbs - Forms
ParticiplesPresent ParticiplePast ParticiplePerfect Participle
Other TopicsWill vs. Going toIf / Even if / Whether / Unless If + Were or If + WasAs If / As Though + Past SubjunctiveHabits Expressed by Will and WouldHad BetterSubject
Read MoreAuxiliary VerbsAuxiliary Verbs: To BeAuxiliary Verbs: To HaveAuxiliary Verbs: To DoWhen To Use the Verb To Be
Grammar

Third Conditional

In this part, you will learn about the third conditional. We use it when talking about a past condition that cannot be fulfilled,
because the action in the if-clause didn't happen.

For example, imagine that you missed a train (and as a result you were late for an important meeting). You could say:

  • If I hadn't missed the train, I wouldn't have been late for the meeting.

Do you know what tenses each of the clauses is in? Let's see:

The verb in the if-clause is in the Past Perfect Tense.
The verb in the main clause is in the perfect conditional.

IF-CLAUSE (Past Perfect)

MAIN CLAUSE (Perfect Conditional)

If I hadn't missed the train,

I wouldn't have been late for the meeting.

More examples:

  • If I had known that you were coming, I would have met you at the railway station. (But I didn't know that you were coming so I didn't come.)
  • If he had tried to leave the country, he would have been stopped at the frontier. (But he didn't try.)

Variations

The form of the conditional can be a little different.

a) could or might may be used instead of would:

  • If the rescue crew had found him earlier, they could have saved his life. (ability)
  • If the rescue crew had found him earlier, they might have saved his life. (possibility)
  • If we had the necessary documents, we could have left at once. (ability or permission)

b) the continuous form of the perfect conditional may be used:

  • If I had had any money I would have been watching the film with my girlfriend that evening.

c) We can use the Past Perfect Continuous in the if-clause:

  • I wasn't wearing a seat belt. If I had been wearing one, I wouldn't have been seriously injured.

A combination of types 2 and 3 is possible:

  • The airplane I intended to catch crashed. If I had caught that airplane, I would have been killed or I would be dead now (type 3).
  • If he had worked harder at school, he would be working in a comfortable office now; he wouldn't be sweeping the streets.
    (But he didn't work hard at school and now he is sweeping the streets.)

Using inversion, we can place had before the subject, omitting the if.

For example, instead of saying:

  • If you had obeyed orders this disaster would not have happened.

We can say:

  • Had you told me about your problems, this disaster would not have happened.

Check your understanding!

VerbAbout VerbsAction VerbsCausative VerbsContractionsDo and MakeFinite and Nonfinite VerbsGerundInfinitive FormInversionLinking VerbsModal VerbsMay and MightMoodsPhrasal VerbsSay and TellShallStative VerbsThird Person SingularUsed toRegular VerbsIrregular VerbsVerb FormsCompound Verbs
ConditionalConditionalZero ConditionalFirst ConditionalSecond ConditionalThird ConditionalMixed ConditionalInversion in Conditional Sentences
Passive VoicePassive VoicePresent Simple PassivePresent Continuous PassivePast Simple PassivePast Continuous PassivePerfect Tenses PassiveFuture Simple PassiveGoing to PassiveSay / Believe / SupposeGet + Participle
Adverbs of FrequencyAdverbs of FrequencyAdverbs of Frequency - Position in Sentence
QuestionsQuestion TagsRhetorical QuestionsEcho Questions
Reported SpeechReported SpeechModals in Reported SpeechReported Commands and RequestsReported QuestionsPresent Perfect in Reported SpeechFuture Perfect in Reported Speech
Irregular VerbsIrregular Verbs - GroupsIrregular Verbs - Forms
ParticiplesPresent ParticiplePast ParticiplePerfect Participle
Other TopicsWill vs. Going toIf / Even if / Whether / Unless If + Were or If + WasAs If / As Though + Past SubjunctiveHabits Expressed by Will and WouldHad BetterSubject
Read MoreAuxiliary VerbsAuxiliary Verbs: To BeAuxiliary Verbs: To HaveAuxiliary Verbs: To DoWhen To Use the Verb To Be