Third conditional

( Free Online English Grammar Lessons )

Read time : 2 minutes

Third Conditional Form : ( If + subject + past perfect, subject + would + have + past participle (verb 3) )

In English we use the third conditional to talk about imaginary situations in the past. They are often the opposite of what has actually happened. We talk about a condition in the past that did not happen. There is no possibility for this condition. The important thing about the third conditional is that both the condition and result are impossible now. 

Example Sentences :

  • If he hadn't worn a bullet-proof vest, he would have been shot dead.(He did wear a vest and he wasn't shot dead)
  • If I had studied for the exam, I would have passed. ( I didn't study and I didn't pass)
  • If I hadn't gone to London, I wouldn't have met my boyfriend.
  • If I had saved some money, I would have bought a house.

Sometimes, in English we use 'should have', 'could have', 'might have' instead of 'would have' to mean 'would perhaps'.

  • If I had studied for the exam, I might have passed.
  • If it had been me, I might have called the police.
  • If you had bought a lottery ticket, you might have won.
  • If I had met Michael Jackson, I might have asked him how to moonwalk! 

The 'if clause' can be first or second in the sentence.

Notes for use of third conditional :

In English we make questions in the third conditional with :

(Question word) + would + subject + have + past participle... + if + subject + past perfect simple?

  • What would you have done if you'd seen him?

In English we can also use 'imagine' and 'suppose' instead of 'if' in third conditional questions.

  • Imagine you'd seen him, what would you have done?

In English we can use a continuous form instead of a simple form to emphasize an action in progress.

  • He wouldn't have seen her if he hadn't been jogging through the park. (variation of third conditional)

Be going to
Be going to passive
Be used to / Get used to
Defining relative clause
Echo tag
First conditional
Future continuous
Future perfect continuous
Future perfect passive
Future perfect simple
Future simple passive
Have/Get something done
Implied conditional
Indirect question
Infinitive of purpose
Mixed conditional
Modal passive
Non-defining relative clause
Past continuous
Past continuous passive
Past perfect continuous
Past perfect passive
Past perfect simple
Past simple
Past simple passive
Polite request / offer / suggestion
Present continuous
Present continuous passive
Present perfect continuous
Present perfect passive
Present perfect simple
Present simple
Present simple passive
Question tag
Reduced relative clause
Reported speech imperative
Reported speech question
Reported speech request
Reported speech statement
Second conditional
Short answer
Third conditional
Used to / would (past habit)
Was/were going to
Was/were supposed to
Would rather
Zero conditional