The third conditional or Conditional Sentences Type III – Past Unreal Conditional.
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What is the third conditional?
- Like the other conditionals, a third conditional sentence consists of two clauses, an ‘if‘ clause and a main clause. We use different verb forms in each part of a third conditional:
IF +Past Perfect, Subject + would/could/might + have + Past Participle.
If I had got a gold medal, I would have been happy..
If I had met Susan last week, I would have given her the book.
If the weather had been good, we would have gone water-skiing.
- If the ‘if‘ clause comes first, a comma is usually used. If the ‘if‘ clause comes second, there is no need for a comma.
We would have gone water-skiing if the weather had been good.
- Note also that third conditional forms can be contracted.
Full form: If you had got up earlier, you would have caught the earlier train.
Contracted form: If you‘d got up earlier, you would‘ve caught the earlier train.
How to use the third conditional
The 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.
If Mark had come on time, he would have met them. (Regret)
If Charlene hadn’t been so careless, she wouldn’t have lost all money. (Criticism)
If you hadn’t lied, you wouldn’t have ended up in prison. (Criticism)
If you had asked her, she would have helped you. (Regret)