Past and Mixed Conditional Sentences
The Third Conditional
Remember that I said in the previous lesson that this is a condition that will never be fulfilled because of the passage of time. That is the reason why sometimes this type of conditional sentence is referred to as “the impossible condition”.
It’s not too easy to learn this structure, but, with a few tips, I’ll try to make it much easier.
Here you have an example of a sentence in the third conditional.
- If you had worked harder, you would have earned more money- Si hubieras trabajado más duro, habría ganado más dinero.
Take a closer look at it.
You can see that the clause that goes with “if” is translated into Spanish with “hubieras + verb in the past participle”.
If + subject+ past perfect = Si + sujeto + “hubiera/s, hubiéramos, hubieran” + pp del verbo principal.
Easy to remember: Past Perfect => Hubiera/Hubiese
You can also see that the second clause, the one that doesn’t have the “if”, is translated as “habría”
Subject + would + have + past participle of the main verb = habría
Easy to remember: Would have => habría
Therefore, every time you want to say something in the third conditional, think of:
Si hubiera/hubiese = If+ subject + past perfect
Habría = Subject + would have + past participle of the main verb.
Let’s study some examples.
- If you had (hubieras) seen (visto) her, you wouldn’t have (no habrías) recognised (reconocido) her.
- Would they have wanted (habrían ellos) to come if you had invited them (los hubieses)?
- If they had listened to us, they would have had more chances (possibilities).
No sé si habrían podido hacerlo si no hubiera sido por tu ayuda.
- I don’t know if they would have been able to do it if it hadn’t been for your help.
We’ll do several exercises with the third conditional so that you learn to get it right but first we’ll study “mixed conditionals”.
What are mixed conditionals?
Just like in Spanish, in English, the conditionals can be mixed. This means that we can combine the different types of conditionals.
Here you have some of the possible combinations.
The Third and Second Conditional
One of the most common mixed conditional sentences is the third combined with the second conditional.
Note: As you study these examples check whether you’ll be able to say them correctly without having to resort to dictionaries or examples. If you think you cannot do it, then go one by one, trying to memorise the different structures and vocabulary.
- If you hadn’t spent all that money (third conditional), you would be rich (second conditional).
Observe that the sentence with “if” is followed by the “past perfect”, making it the third conditional. However, in the second part of the clause, we don’t have the structure of the third conditional but rather the second: subject + would + verb in the infinitive.
In Spanish, we would say:
- If she hadn’t worked (Third conditional) so hard, she wouldn’t be (Second conditional) sick now.
- If they hadn’t lent us the money (Third conditional), we wouldn’t be (Second conditional) here now.
As you study these examples, check whether you are able to say them correctly without having to resort to dictionaries or examples. If you don’t think it’s possible, then go one by one and try to memorise the different structures and vocabulary.
Let’s see other possible combinations of mixed conditional sentences now.
The Second and Third conditional
In this case, the “if” part of the sentence uses the second conditional (verb in past tense), and the other part of the sentence goes in the third conditional. So, it is not just inverting the order of the conditional we just saw.
Let’s see some examples:
- If she didn’t have (Second conditional, remember the past tense after “if”) so much money, she wouldn’t have spent (Third conditional) a fortune on a car.
- If he had more time (Second conditional), he would have helped you clean the house (Third conditional).
- If I knew all about it (Second conditional), I wouldn’t have bought (Third conditional) the book.
Third and future conditional
- If she had passed the final school exam (third conditional), she would now be studying (Future conditional) with us at the university.
Notice we haven’t mentioned “the future conditional” until now.
In fact, there is a slight change between the second conditional (also called “present conditional”) and the future conditional. The only difference is that the main verb – in this case “to be studying” ends in the –ing form.
- She would study with us = ella estudiaría con nosotros.
- She would be studying with us = ella estaría estudiando con nosotros.
Second and Future conditional
In this case, the “if clause”, goes in the second conditional and the other clause in the future conditional.
Let’s see some examples:
- If he knew English (second conditional), he wouldn’t be going to take a course in Scotland next summer (future conditional).
- Would you be flying to Rome tomorrow (future conditional) if it weren’t (second conditional) because of your Italian girlfriend?
- If I ate more today (second conditional), I would be going (future conditional) to the doctor tomorrow.
Mastering the third conditional and mixed conditionals
As I have explained above, in order to master the third conditional it’s essential to know the equivalence between “hubiera/hubiese- habría” and the structure “if + subject + past perfect + subject + would + have+ pp. of the main v. “
However, you can learn this structure just buy using it many times, without having to memorise complex rules.
Regarding the mixed conditionals, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to use the conditional sentences properly if you already know the basics: equivalence of conditional tenses between English and Spanish and the past participle of the verbs.
In the audiobook there aren´t enough examples of the third and mixed conditionals, so we will study them with other examples.