Third conditional

Form

If + past perfect + would have + verb 3 (past participle)

Meaning

We use third conditional to Imagine a different past

  • If I’d done my homework, my teacher wouldn’t have shouted at me.
  • In reality I didn’t do my homework and my teacher shouted at me

  • She would have passed her exam if she had studied more.
  • In reality she didn’t study enough and so she didn’t pass her exam

Additional points

  1. We can use other modal verbs in place of would:
    • If they’d come earlier, they could have got a seat.
    • If I’d known, I might have come.
  2. If the result of an action is in the present, we use a mixed conditional: If + past perfect, would + infinitive
    • If it hadn’t rained, I would have gone to the beach.
    • In reality it rained in the past and I didn’t go to the beach

    • If it hadn’t rained, I would be at the beach / would be sitting on the beach.
    • In reality, it rained in the past and I am not at the beach now

Pronunciation

See the phonemic chart for IPA symbols used below.

In connected speech the contraction and weak form of have is usually used.

  • If I’d known earlier, I would’ve done something: /wʊdəv/

Related grammar points

Zero conditional
First conditional
a href=”/grammar/second-conditional”>Second conditional
Wish

4 teaching ideas

  1. Anonymous says:

    I play the game “deal or no deal” (where they choose the boxes with money behind them) and at the end of the game imagine they are at home explaining what would have happened if they had chosen another box or continued to the end of the game, and ask what they would have won if they hadn’t accepted or chosen the offer or another box, respectively.

  2. Psicotika says:

    I ask students to think about what life was like 100 or 200 years ago, brainstorm some ideas like:

    women didn’t go to school
    there was no internet
    couples used to have a lot of kids
    and so on..

    Then, I ask: “what would your life have been like if you had been born 100 years ago?” I answer as an example: If I had been born 100 years ago, I wouldn’t have gone to the university. I would have stayed at home etc… then ss can start askng and answering on their own. It can also be done with other countries, like “what would your life have been like if you had been born in China?”

    You can play a video, to give them some ideas before.

  3. Houcine says:

    After a reading or listening activity, I ask students to write down all the sentences starting with “if”. I write one of the examples on the board:

    If it hadn’t rained, he’d have gone to the beach.

    I elicit the form first and then ask concept questions:

    Did it rain? Ss: “Yes”
    Did he want to go to the beach? Ss: “Yes”
    Did he go to the beach? Ss: “No”
    Did he regret it? Ss: “Yes”

    Point out the relationship between REGRETTING and the FORM. (NB: eliciting is better than explaining). Good luck.

  4. Faith says:

    Have one student leave the room, then decide as a class on an event. It can be very crazy, such as martians landing on earth or something more simple such as x and y getting married. The student then comes back and the rest of the class make third conditional sentences until he/she guesses what the event was. Let’s say in the marriage scenario, example sentences could be:

    “If this had happened, I would have brought flowers.” or “If this had happened, I would have eaten cake.”

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