The third conditional is one of the four main English conditionals. This lesson shows you how to use this conditional correctly. You can find links to exercises at the bottom of the page.
Let’s start with the purpose.
The third conditional is for unreal situations in the past. This is why it is called the past unreal conditional.
Third Conditional Structure
If + Past Perfect + Modal Verb + Past Perfect
Here are some examples:
- If I had studied for the exam, I could have passed.
- She could have gone if she had had more time.
- If you had known about the exam, you should have studied.
- We should have seen a different movie.
- If he had studied harder for the exam, he might have passed.
- Mary might have gone if you had asked her.
- If I had been you, I would have studied.
- I would have bought a different jacket.
- If I had not practiced, I would have failed the exam.
- If I had studied, I would not have failed the exam.
- I would have bought the shoes if I hadn’t had to pay for the jacket.
- She would not have gone to the party if she had needed to work.
- What would you have done if you had been me?
- Where would you have gone?
- If it had rained, would you have had the picnic?
- Would you have bought the same shoes?
Third Conditional Uses
Imaginary Situations in the Past
- If I had gone to university, I would have studied medicine.
- If I had studied for my exam, I would have passed.
- I could have won the game if I had tried harder.
Advice in the Past
- You should have saved your money.
- You should have studied harder.
- You should not have bought so many pairs of shoes.
Sometimes, we give advice by showing what we would have done in the same situation.
- If I had been you, I would not have bought those shoes.
- If I had been you, I would have quit.
The combination of a modal verb and “have” are contracted to make the following words:
Take a look at some examples:
- If I had tried harder, I could’ve passed my test.
- If he had woken up earlier, he would’ve been on time for class.
In conversation, these words are often shortened to make these sounds:
Keep in mind these are not real words. They are the sounds we make in speaking.
Third Conditional Tests
Do you think you are ready to try some third conditional tests? Check your understanding with these:
For some fun practice, try this listening exercise that uses a song by Taylor Swift.