An Introduction to the Third Conditional
  • 3-minute read
  • 23rd December 2022

An Introduction to the Third Conditional

Conditional statements are used to imagine things that might happen or could have happened. There are four types of conditionals in English.

The third conditional is used to discuss actions and situations in the past. By using the third conditional, we imagine or hypothesize another result of a past action or situation.

How to Make a Third Conditional Statement

If + subject + had + past perfect […] subject + would have + past participle

Let’s look at some examples:

If you had told me about the party, I would have come.

(Reality: I did not go to the party because you didn’t tell me about it.)

If I’d studied for the exam, I would have gotten a better grade.

(Reality: I got a bad grade because I didn’t study for the exam.)

If we had gotten coffee earlier, we would’ve been late for class.

(Reality: We were on time for class because we did not get coffee earlier.)

If they’d gone to that concert, I would’ve gone with them.

(Reality: They didn’t go to the concert, so I didn’t go either.)

How to Make a Negative Form of a Third Conditional Statement

If + subject + had + past perfect […] subject + would not have + past participle

Or

If + subject + had + not […] subject + would have + past participle

Let’s look at some examples:

If they’d stayed home, I wouldn’t have been so lonely.

(Reality: They left me at home by myself, so I was lonely.)

If I had known it would rain, I wouldn’t have come.

(Reality: I went to an event because I didn’t know it would start raining.)

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If you hadn’t told me that car was coming, I would have died!

(Reality: You alerted me to the car coming, so I didn’t get hit by it.)

If they hadn’t worn their coats, they would have been cold.

(Reality: They wore their coats, so they were not cold.)

How to Invert Third Conditional Statements

Finally, we can flip or invert these structures to create new sentences with the same meaning.

Subject + would have + past participle […] if + subject + had + past perfect

Inverted negative forms:

Subject + would not have + past participle […] if + subject + had + past perfect

Subject + would have + past participle […] if + subject + had + not + past perfect

Let’s look at some examples:

I wouldn’t have been so lonely if they’d stayed home.

We would’ve been late for class if we’d gotten coffee earlier.

I would’ve gone with them if they’d gone to that concert.

I would have died if you hadn’t told me that car was coming!

I wouldn’t have come if I had known it would rain.

Note on using contractions:

As you may have noticed, ‘d can mean “had” or “would.” If you are unsure if ‘d means “would” or “had,” just remember:

●  When ‘d is followed by a past participle (I’d gone), then ‘d = had.

●  When ‘d is followed by a verb base or root form (I’d have), then ‘d = would.

Contractions are a great way to improve your fluency while speaking. However, be mindful that contractions should not be used in formal or academic writing.

Takeaway

The third conditional is used to talk about a past event or situation and imagine a different outcome. If you’re struggling to use the third conditional or would like an expert to give personalized feedback on your writing, we’ll proofread your first 500 words for free!

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