miniatura 3rd c

When do we use the third conditional?

We use the third conditional when we want to talk about imaginary, hypothetical situations in the past.

Form:

If + had + past participle, would + have + past participle

Let’s say that:

I was really upset in the morning. When I got to work, it turned out the meetings were cancelled.

But: If I had known the meetings were cancelled, I wouldn’t have worked at the presentation during the night.

 

This is an imaginary situation. In reality, I worked during the night because I didn’t know the meetings were cancelled.

So, the third conditional speaks about a different, unreal past situation:

If I had known the meetings were cancelled, I wouldn’t have worked at the presentation during the night.

There are two parts (clauses) here:

The conditional clause (part): if + had + past participle:

If I had known the meetings were cancelled, …

The other part, the main clause, is made of subject + would have + past participle.

I wouldn’t have worked

The order of the two parts can be changed:

I wouldn’t have worked at the presentation during the night if I had known the meetings were cancelled.

The third conditional is used to talk about things we’re happy we did:

Unfortunately, you had bad grades last semester. If you had studied harder, you would have got better grades.

My brother lost a contest. My brother would have won that contest if he had trained himself more.

The third conditional is used to talk about things we wish we’d done differently:

  • My son met his best friend at school. They’ve been best friends for some years now. = If he hadn’t gone to that school, he wouldn’t have met his best friend.
  • I lived near school when I was a child. If I hadn’t lived near school, I wouldn’t have saved so much time in the morning.

Short form:

I would have = I’d have / I would = I’d

I had lived = I’d lived / I had = I’d

Examples:

  • If I’d had my mobile phone, I’d have called you.
  • If I’d lived far from school, I wouldn’t have saved so much time.
  • I forgot my husband’s birthday. He was upset. = If I hadn’t forgotten his birthday, he wouldn’t have been upset.
  • I worked too much. I felt exhausted. = If I hadn’t worked too much, I wouldn’t have felt exhausted.
  • I didn’t go there by car. I couldn’t take my friends home. = If I had gone there by car, I could have taken my friends home.
  • I had no money, I couldn’t buy you the toy car. = If I had had enough money, I would have bought you the toy car.

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