The third conditional

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The third conditional

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In this episode of 6 Minute Grammar, Neil and Catherine teach you how to use the third conditional to talk about things in the past that we didnt do.

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Neil Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Neil…

Catherine And me, Catherine. Hello.

Neil And today, we’re talking about the third conditional.

Catherine Yes - we’ll be looking at why and when we use it.

Neil And we’ll see how to form it…

Catherine There’ll be at a very helpful pronunciation tip…

Neil And there’ll also be a third conditional quiz at the end of the show!

Catherine Now, the main use of the third conditional is to talk about imaginary situations in the past. And here’s Mike with our first example:

Mike I was really late for work today. When I got to the station, it turned out the trains were cancelled. If I had known the trains were cancelled, I would have taken a bus.

Catherine And Mike’s last sentence is describing an imaginary situation. In reality, Mike was late for work because he didn’t know the trains were cancelled, and he didn’t take a bus. He uses the third conditional to imagine a different past situation when he says: If I had known the trains were cancelled, I would have taken a bus.

Neil Let’s take a closer look. There are two parts to this sentence. One part is made with if plus past perfect :

Mike If I had known the trains were cancelled …

Neil And the other part is made of subject plus would have plus a past participle .

Mike … I would have taken a bus.

Catherine And we put the two parts together to talk about an imaginary situation in the past, and its imaginary result.

Neil You can change the order of the two parts if you like: the meaning stays the same:

Mike I would have taken a bus if I had known the trains were cancelled.

Neil Let’s have some more examples. Listen out for if plus past perfect with would have plus a past participle .

Mike I got two Ds and an F in my exams. If I had worked harder, I would have got better grades.

Patty was a great singer when she was younger. She would have won that TV talent show if she had entered it.

Catherine And we can use negatives in either or both parts of the sentence. Here are a couple of examples, with the negative forms hadn ‘t and wouldn ‘t :

Mike Abid met his wife at university. They’ve been married for 3 years now. If Abid hadn ‘t gone to university, he wouldn’t have met his wife.

I registered my mobile phone on a tracker website. When I lost it, I logged on to the site and they told me where it was. If I hadn ‘t registered my phone, it would have been lost for ever.

Catherine So you can see that the third conditional is very useful to talk about things we’re pleased we did, as well as things we wish we’d done differently. So what about you Neil - anything you’d change - or not change - in your past?

Neil I lived in Canada when I was a child and if I hadn’t lived in Canada I wouldn’t have got dual citizenship. I’m a citizen of the UK and Canada.

IDENT 6 Minute Grammar from the BBC.

Catherine And we’re talking about third conditionals. And now it’s time to talk about pronunciation. We use lots of short forms in third conditionals. And here’s Mike again with an example.

Mike If I ‘d had my camera, I ‘d have taken a photo.

Catherine So in the if part, I and had are shortened to I ‘d. In the main part, I and would are shortened to I ‘d , and we also drop the h from have. So I would have becomes ‘ I’d’ve’. Let’s hear another example:

Mike If I ‘d woken up earlier, I wouldn’t have missed my flight.

Catherine So I had become I ‘d in the if part and would not have becomes ‘ wouldn’t’ve’ in the main part.

Neil Now it’s time for a quiz! I’m going to say two sentences, and you have to use them to make a third conditional sentence. Here’s the first one. Mike forgot Jane’s birthday. She was upset.

Catherine If Mike hadn’t forgotten Jane’s birthday, she wouldn’t have been upset.

Neil Good. Another one: I ate too much. I feel sick.

Catherine If I hadn’t eaten too much, I wouldn’t have felt sick.

Neil And the last one: I didn’t go to the party. I didn’t meet Francesca.

Catherine I would’ve met Francesca if I’d gone to the party.

Neil Exactly. And that’s the end of the quiz. Well done if you got them all right. And we’ve just got time for a top tip before we finish. Remember, in standard English, there’s only one would in a third conditional sentence. We don ‘t use would in the if part. Here ‘s an example of an incorrect sentence.

Mike If Tom would have said sorry, Sonia would have forgiven him.

Neil Here’s the correct version:

Mike If Tom had said sorry, Sonia would have forgiven him.

Neil Great. So that’s the third conditional. It’s made of if plus the past perfect tense, and would have plus the past participle. We use it to talk about imaginary situations in the past.

Catherine There’s more about this on our website at Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.

Both Bye.

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