Tuesday, February 8, 2011

More on conditionals - third and mixed


In a recent post I looked at conditionals being used in popular songs. This mainly involved 1st and 2nd Conditionals, so I thought it might be a good idea to brush up on 3rd and Mixed Conditionals.

  • Explore the grammar by doing a few exercises
  • Practise with 3rd Conditional quizzes / exercises
  • Practise with Mixed Conditional quizzes / exercises



Mixed Conditionals are mainly a combination of 2nd and 3rd Conditionals, and that's all you're likely to come across in a certificate exam, so let's just remind ourselves of the structure of 2nd and 3rd Conditionals.

Click and Drop - Where you see the red question mark symbol ?, place the cursor over it for instructions, using your mouse.

Ex 1 - Complete the rules ?

Conditionalif clauseresult clause
Second if + , +
Refers to (time):
Third if + , +
Refers to (time):

Ex 2 - Now put it into practice with actual sentences. ?

hadn't been   ·   worked   ·   wasn't   ·   pass
would   ·   passed   ·   work   ·   would have
2nd: If I so lazy, I harder and my exams.
3rd: If I so lazy, I harder and my exams.

Second Conditional and the Subjunctive

If you are of an advanced enough level to be reading this blog, I think you'll be reasonably au fait with how Second Conditional works, so we'll be concentrating on 3rd Conditional. But I would just like to say one thing.
You'll notice that I used wasn't in the first sentence, where you might have been expecting weren't. In fact I did this automatically without even thinking. Some people will tell you that you must use Subjunctive with Second Conditional. This basically means using were instead of was. If you want to do that, of course that is absolutely fine, but just be aware that native speakers are increasingly saying was, rather than were (at least in the UK). As far as the world of TEFL is concerned, both are equally correct.


The chart above shows the decline in the use of the subjunctive in British English (red and blue), and notice how it has been much steeper since the late fifties.


Interestingly the decline in the US has not been so marked.
The reason for this change is easy to understand, and I would argue, perfectly logical. The Subjunctive has been gradually dropping out of use in English over the centuries. For all verbs except to be, Subjunctive Past is now identical to Past Simple. People have got used to using the past in Second Conditionals, and are now simply extending this to the verb to be.
In fixed phrases such as If I were you, however, this form is so deeply ingrained that If I was you would sound unnatural, and many people might regard it as incorrect. So, better stick with the subjunctive there.


3rd Conditional

Third conditional refers to hypothetical situations in the past (often referred to as unreal past in higher level course books). In other words we speculate about things that didn't happen, or wonder what it would have been like if things that did happen, hadn't happened. They are therefore always opposite to what in fact happened in terms of positive and negative. This sometimes confuses students. (I think it's just confused me, too! No, it's OK, only joking.)
To show this, it's always possible to add: But I did, so I have, or But I didn't, so I haven't, or some combination of the two. We wouldn't be very likely to do this in real life, but it might help you to understand and remember the principle.
If I'd remembered her birthday, I'd have bought her a present.
But I didn't, so I haven't.

Ex 3 - Complete the sentences by entering the correct forms of the verbs into the gaps. Use contractions as in these examples.

  • I'd done
  • I hadn't done
  • I 'd have done
  • I wouldn't have done

Situation
Real 1I was lazy (+), I didn't work hard (-)
Unreal 1 If I hadn't been so lazy (-), I'd have worked harder (+).
Real 2I was so lazy (+), I partied every night (+)
Unreal 2If I so lazy, I every night.
Real 3I didn't work hard (-), so I didn't pass my exams (-)
Unreal 4If I hard, I my exam.
Real 4I didn't work hard (-), so I failed my exams (+)
Unreal 4If I hard, I my exams.

See below for four 3rd Conditional exercises

Mixed Conditionals

In mixed conditionals we usually mix the clauses from 2nd and 3rd conditionals.

Ex 4 - Look at these two sentences and fill the gaps:


if clauseresult clause
If I'd passed my exams,I would have a better job today.
Tense pattern: ,
Refers to (time): ,
If I wasn't so lazy,I would've passed my exams.
Tense pattern: ,
Refers to (time): ,

As a form of shorthand, I call these:
  • Mixed 3:2 Conditional
  • Mixed 2:3 Conditional
The first type - Mixed 3:2 - where a past condition has a present result, is much more common than the second.

The second type - Mixed 2:3 - is most often used to refer to a general situation (expressed in the present), for example a feature of somebody's character, a state or an ability, rather than a specific event in the present.
If I wasn't so lazy, I would have worked harder for my exams.
If she spoke Spanish, she might have got the job.
It is possible to use this type of Mixed Conditional with a specific event in the present,
If I wasn't meeting her today, I would have posted her present to her.
If he had a bigger house, he would have bought that enormous sofa that was in the sale.
but we are more likely to use a Third Conditional:
If I hadn't been meeting her today, I would have posted her present to her.
If he'd had a bigger house, he would have bought that enormous sofa that was in the sale.
Note - The majority of Mixed Conditionals follow this pattern, but not all. It should also be remembered that not all conditional statements fit into the First, Second, Third pattern. These are not so much rules, as a way of categorising conditional statements to make those patterns easier to understand.

Practice exercises

You can find answers to all the practice exercises at the end of this post.

Third Conditional

Practice 1 - Match the two halves ? to make Third Conditional sentences

1. If you hadn't phoned to say you were safe
2. She would never have managed
3. If she hadn't been busy talking on her mobile,
4. He couldn't have given up smoking
5. If they hadn't booked early
6. If she hadn't taken that job in Barcelona
7. They would have really enjoyed themselves
8. We could have eaten a lot better

Practice 2 - Fill the gaps ? to make Third Conditional sentences.

hadn't   had  
1.It's all the government's fault. If they raised VAT, we could have afforded a new car.
2.The trip would have been more enjoyable if the weather been better.
3.My suitcase wouldn't have got lost if I labelled it more clearly.
4.If the council provided more recycling bins, more people might have used them.
5.If we lost our lottery ticket, we would have won a fortune.
6.It wouldn't have been such a disaster if we forgotten to buy insurance.
7.The cat wouldn't have got stuck in the tree if that bird been sitting on a branch.
8.If they only listened to our advice, they wouldn't have gone there in the first place.

Practice 3 - Enter the verb in its correct form into the gaps using the prompts given to make Third Conditional; sentences.

Use the contractions - wouldn't, hadn't - where possible, but don't use any others

1.We could have been watching that film now if you (not / have) to work late.
2.If they hadn't both suddenly felt like a coffee that day, they (might / never / meet).
3.If it (not / be) such a lovely day, we wouldn't have gone to the beach.
4.The generals (never / agree) to our demands if hadn't been for the Americans.
5.She wouldn't have done it if you (not egg) her on.
6.If the space probe (reach) its target yet, Houston would have known.
7.A lot of money (could / be / saved) if they'd listened to their adviser.
8.If he hadn't been such a greedy bastard, he (not / lose) all that money.

Practice 4


  1. Choose the correct base verb for each sentence. Click on a verb in the top box and then click on the appropriate box (in brackets) in the column on the right. When you've finished click on 'Check 1'
  2. Enter the verb in its correct form into the gaps in the sentences. You might have to make it negative for the sentence to make sense. Use the contractions - 'd (have), wouldn't, hadn't - where possible, but don't use any others. When you've finished click on 'Check 2'
get   buy   wait   see   be   go   be able  
1.We for you if we'd known you were coming too. ( )
2.If I hadn't seen you at the party, I in touch anyway. ( )
3.You'd have had a right laugh if you his face. ( )
4.If the weather hadn't been so awful, we to the mountains. ( )
5.They'd have loved to have been there, if only they to get away. ( )
6.If the train full, we'd have been able to get a seat. ( )
7.The floods worse if it hadn't been for the protective barriers. ( )
8.If she that dress for the party, I think I would have myself. ( )

Mixed Conditionals - In these exercises all sentences are about unreal conditions so mix Second and Third Conditionals only.


Practice 5 - Match the two halves ?

1. If they hadn't invested so much in the past
2. She would have remembered to get him a birthday present
3. If he was a bit more careful with his money
4. I would be finding it easier to get into university
5. If I had a driving licence
6. They wouldn't have missed the train
7. She would be managing director now
8. If you hadn't let the dogs out in the rain

Practice 6 - Choose the correct alternative to make mixed conditionals ?

1. If I knew the answer I you.
would tell - would have told
2. The fireman could have put out the fire quicker if they better equipped.
were - had been
3. We wouldn't be so broke if you away all our money.
didn't gamble - hadn't gambled
4. If she hadn't gone on that holiday to Greece, she so keen on Greek culture.
wouldn't be - wouldn't have been
5. We in such uncomfortable seats if we had paid a bit more for First Class.
wouldn't be sitting - wouldn't have been sitting
6. If he a bit more street-wise, he would never have got tricked like that.
was - had been
7. If he such high grades in his 'A' levels, he wouldn't be at Oxford now.
didn't have - hadn't got
8. She lost if she had a better sense of direction.
wouldn't get - wouldn't have got

Practice 7 - Enter the verb in its correct form into the gap using the prompt given to make a mixed conditional. You might have to make it negative for the sentence to make sense.

Use the contractions - 'd (have), wouldn't (have), hadn't, wasn't, weren't - where possible, but don't use any others
1.If the family (not move) house, they wouldn't be so near the children's school.
2.If you weren't so selfish, you (give) your sister some of your cake.
3.He wouldn't have won yesterday's race if he (be) so fit these days.
4.If I (be) allergic to nuts, I wouldn't have eaten that nut roast.
5.We would be in the Caribbean now if the airline pilots (go) on strike.
6.We wouldn't have eaten that steak if we (be) vegetarians.
7.If they hadn't sent him to such a posh school, perhaps he (be) such a snob now.
8.I would be so rich now if only my horse (fall) at the last fence.

Practice 8

  1. Choose the correct base verb for each sentence. Click on a verb in the top box and then click on the appropriate box in the column on the right. When you've finished click on 'Check 1'
  2. Enter the verb in its correct form into the gaps to make mixed conditionals. You might have to make it negative for the sentence to make sense. Use contractions as in Practice 7. When you've finished click on 'Check 2'
feel   join   finish   notice   go   be   know   look
1.He her if he wasn't so short-sighted.
2.If they'd invited me, I there right now.
3.If he the company, we might still be making a loss.
4.We to bed earlier if we weren't such night owls.
5.I happier if you hadn't agreed we go to your mother's.
6.If she friendlier, I'd have spoken to her.
7.She would be a doctor now if she her studies.
8.If I had a watch, I the time.

Answers to the Practice exercises - click on a button and then go back to the exercise.

Links - Mixed Conditionals


Mixed conditionals - more exercises


Mixed conditionals - video

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