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If: The 3rd Conditional

1. What is the 3rd conditional?

The 3rd conditional is an ‘if’ phrase for ‘alternative realities’.

That means it is for thinking how life would be different if an event in the past had been different.

2. How to make the 3rd conditional

There are two ways to talk about alternative realities:
1. how the past would have been different
2. how the present would be different

To make these 3rd conditionals, use:
1. if + past perfect + would/could/might + present perfect
2. if + past perfect + would/could/might + present

*The past perfect is had + p.p. (done, gone, seen, eaten, etc.)
*The present perfect is have + p.p. (done, gone, seen, eaten, etc.)
* The present perfect or present can placed at the start or at the end

ifpast perfectwould/could/mightpresent perfectfull sentence
ifI had studied harderwouldhave passedIf I had studied harder, I would have passed
ifhe hadn’t come to Shanghaiwould nothave met herIf he hadn’t come to Shanghai, he wouldn’t have met her
ifhe hadn’t been so stupidmighthave been richThey might have been rich and famous if he hadn’t been so stupid
ifpast perfectwould/could/mightpresentfull sentence
ifI hadn’t called the boss a pigmightbe the bossIf I hadn’t called the boss a pig, I might be the boss now.
ifshe had bought a lottery ticketwouldbe richIf she had bought a lottery ticket that day, she would be rich.
ifFrance hadn’t had its revolution wouldhave a royal familyIf France hadn’t had its revolution, it would still have a royal family.

3. Exercises

Complete the sentences about ‘alternative realities’ (things that never happened)
(i) if my teacher had come to my birthday party,…
(ii) if my mother hadn’t met my father, ….
(iii) I would have gone ape (crazily angry) if….

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