ESL Term:

Third Conditional

ESL/EFL Glossary: A Guide to applied linguistics terminology.


Back to ESL Resources | Back to Glossary



third conditional: This an if/then statement used to talk about hypothetical or unreal situations in the past.  In other words, it is used to examine what would have happened if the past had been different.

If I had known you were coming, I would have cooked dinner.

(In fact, I didn't know you were coming).


I would have killed him, if he drank my beer.

(He didn't drink my beer, lucky for him.)


If he had studied harder, he might have passed.


If + past perfect, then + would (could, might)+ present perfect


However, in casual speach many speakers use a 'mixed-conditional' form, where the simple past is substituted for the past perfect.


If I knew you were coming, I would have cooked dinner.

If he drank my beer, I would have killed him.

For more discussion of conditionals in this glossary see:

                                    zero conditional

                                    first conditional

                                    second conditional


For more on the third conditional see the University of Victoria's website.