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Third Conditional- Structure, Uses with Examples Sentences

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If you have studied how to formulate and use the zero, first and second conditional sentences, you'll be confident in understanding and using the third conditional sentences here in this article. 

How Do We Create a Third Conditional?

The third conditional uses the past perfect tense in the if-clause followed by the perfect conditional (Subject + would have + past participle) in the main clause. Since the third conditional describes an unreal/ hypothetical situation in the past, therefore, we also called it the past unreal conditional. The if-clause describes the unreal situation in the past, and the main clause describes the unreal/ hypothetical past result.

  • If I had tried hard to ride the bike, I would have been learned it so far. (But I didn't try.)
  • If she had studied harder, she could have been an engineer. (But she didn't study harder)

Third Conditional Structure 

Third conditional sentences are composed of two clauses: the if-clause and the result/main clause. To make third conditional sentences use past perfect tense in the conditional clause and past participle of the verb in the result clause.

If + subject + past perfect, subject + would + have + past participle

Examples
  • If she had woken up on time, she would have washed her clothes.
  • If she had been healthy, she would have played the game all day.
  • If you had been well prepared, you would have passed that test.
     (But you were not prepared well, so you did not pass the test.)

Instead of would the model verbs Could or might may also be used in the main clause.
  • If I had appeared in the test, I could have passed it. (ability)
  • If I had seen him before, I might have recognized him. (possibility)
  • If we had been met earlier, we could have reached on time. (Describe permission or ability)
  • If she had done her homework, the teacher wouldn't have shouted at her.

The past perfect continuous tense can also be used in the if-clause. Thus, the structure of the third conditional becomes If + past perfect continuous

  • The boy was wearing a helmet. He would have been seriously injured if he hadn't been wearing one.
  • If he hadn't phoned to go home, we would have been waiting for him till evening.
  • If she had been using the tool carefully, she wouldn't have injured her hand. 

Third Conditional Question Sentences 

The question sentences in the third conditional can be formed by inverting would or other model verbs with the subject.
  • Would they have prepared the dinner if they had known about us?
  • What might the professor have done if he had made that mistake?
  • How could his family have lived if he had been injured in the accident?
  • What else had happened if the boss wouldn't have found you there?

Third Conditional Negative Sentence

We can make the third conditional negative by putting the negative of the past perfect tense in the if-clause and making would/could/might have negative in the clause that describes the condition's result.

Examples
  • If the students hadn't come late, the teacher wouldn't have been angry.
  • The police wouldn't have arrested him if he hadn't left early.
  • If the students hadn't been on strike, their classes wouldn't have been missed.
  • If he hadn't gotten up late, he wouldn't have missed the class.
  • If the thieves hadn't escaped, they wouldn't have robbed the house.

What is Third Conditional Used For?

The third conditional describes past events that didn't happen, but we just imagine a situation in the past and an imaginary result in the past. It expresses imaginary situations that are contrary to facts in the past. It specifically talks about the unreal past. 

Examples
  • If you hadn't been riding the bike so fast, you wouldn't have been fallen. (So, this situation has already happened; I can't change it now.
  • We decided to stay at home today. We would have watched the movie if we had not been so tired. (But we were tired)
  • If I had a knife, I would have killed that dog. (but I don't have a knife)
  • My brother got up late yesterday morning, so he missed the class.
  • If I had passed the exam, I would have been very happy, but unfortunately, I failed.
  • It would have been better if he had come earlier. (but he didn't come earlier)
  • We would have traveled to many places if we had had more money.
  • If her dad had stayed at home, he would have extinguished the fire.
  • If you had closed the door correctly, the cow wouldn't have been run away.
  • We could have discussed it more if we had had more time.

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