Unit 9: Project management
The third conditional
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- 1 Pop-ups
- 2 Hidden talents
- 3 Can't buy me love
- 4 Travellers' tales
- 5 The colleague from hell
- 6 Jurassic mystery: unpacking the past
- 7 Career changes
- 8 Art
- 9 Project management
- 10 The dog ate my homework!
- 11 The diary of a double agent
- 12 Fashion forward
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- 14 Extreme sports
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- 16 Me, my selfie and I
- 17 Endangered animals
- 18 A nip and a tuck: cosmetic surgery
- 19 I'm really sorry...
- 20 Telling stories
- 21 Fakes and phrasals
- 22 Looking to the future
- 23 Becoming familiar with things
- 24 From rags to riches
- 25 Against the odds
- 26 Our future on Mars?
- 27 Where is it illegal to get a fish drunk?
- 28 Dodgy dating
- 29 Annoying advice
- 30 I'll have been studying English for thirty weeks
Learn about the conditional we use for imagined past events. Do lots of exercises to practise this useful form. If I'd won the lottery, I'd have…
The third conditional
In this episode of 6 Minute Grammar, Neil and Catherine teach you how to use the third conditional to talk about things in the past that we didn't do.
Listen to the audio
Hello. Welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Neil…
And me, Catherine. Hello.
And today, we’re talking about the third conditional.
Yes - we’ll be looking at why and when we use it.
And we’ll see how to form it…
There’ll be at a very helpful pronunciation tip…
And there’ll also be a third conditional quiz at the end of the show!
Now, the main use of the third conditional is to talk about imaginary situations in the past. And here’s Mike with our first example:
I was really late for work today. When I got to the station, it turned out the trains were cancelled. If I had known the trains were cancelled, I would have taken a bus.
And Mike’s last sentence is describing an imaginary situation. In reality, Mike was late for work because he didn’t know the trains were cancelled, and he didn’t take a bus. He uses the third conditional to imagine a different past situation when he says: If I had known the trains were cancelled, I would have taken a bus.
Let’s take a closer look. There are two parts to this sentence. One part is made with if plus past perfect:
If I had known the trains were cancelled …
And the other part is made of subject plus would have plus a past participle.
… I would have taken a bus.
And we put the two parts together to talk about an imaginary situation in the past, and its imaginary result.
You can change the order of the two parts if you like: the meaning stays the same:
I would have taken a bus if I had known the trains were cancelled.
Let’s have some more examples. Listen out for if plus past perfect with would have plus a past participle.
I got two Ds and an F in my exams. If I had worked harder, I would have got better grades.
Patty was a great singer when she was younger. She would have won that TV talent show if she had entered it.
And we can use negatives in either or both parts of the sentence. Here are a couple of examples, with the negative forms hadn’t and wouldn’t:
Abid met his wife at university. They’ve been married for 3 years now. If Abid hadn’t gone to university, he wouldn’t have met his wife.
I registered my mobile phone on a tracker website. When I lost it, I logged on to the site and they told me where it was. If I hadn’t registered my phone, it would have been lost for ever.
So you can see that the third conditional is very useful to talk about things we’re pleased we did, as well as things we wish we’d done differently. So what about you Neil – anything you’d change – or not change – in your past?
I lived in Canada when I was a child and if I hadn’t lived in Canada I wouldn’t have got dual citizenship. I’m a citizen of the UK and Canada.
6 Minute Grammar from the BBC.
And we’re talking about third conditionals. And now it’s time to talk about pronunciation. We use lots of short forms in third conditionals. And here’s Mike again with an example.
If I’d had my camera, I’d have taken a photo.
So in the if part, I and had are shortened to I’d. In the main part, I and would are shortened to I’d, and we also drop the h from have. So I would have becomes ‘I’d’ve’. Let’s hear another example:
If I’d woken up earlier, I wouldn’t have missed my flight.
So I had become I’d in the if part and would not have becomes ‘wouldn’t’ve’ in the main part.
Now it’s time for a quiz! I’m going to say two sentences, and you have to use them to make a third conditional sentence. Here’s the first one. Mike forgot Jane’s birthday. She was upset.
If Mike hadn’t forgotten Jane’s birthday, she wouldn’t have been upset.
Good. Another one: I ate too much. I feel sick.
If I hadn’t eaten too much, I wouldn’t have felt sick.
And the last one: I didn’t go to the party. I didn’t meet Francesca.
I would’ve met Francesca if I’d gone to the party.
Exactly. And that’s the end of the quiz. Well done if you got them all right. And we’ve just got time for a top tip before we finish. Remember, in standard English, there’s only one would in a third conditional sentence. We don’t use would in the if part. Here’s an example of an incorrect sentence.
If Tom would have said sorry, Sonia would have forgiven him.
Here’s the correct version:
If Tom had said sorry, Sonia would have forgiven him.
Great. So that’s the third conditional. It’s made of if plus the past perfect tense, and would have plus the past participle. We use it to talk about imaginary situations in the past.
There’s more about this on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.
End of Session 2
That's all for this session. We hope you enjoyed it.
In Session 3, Finn loses his job because he didn't finish his project on time. You'll hear lots of examples of the third conditional and get a chance to test how much you understand about this part of grammar.
Third conditional - Meaning and use
The third conditional is used to talk about imagined situations in the past, things that didn't happen.
If I’d known it was your birthday, I’d have bought you a present.
Sentences have an if part and a main/result part.We make the third conditional with if + past perfect, and would have + past participle:
If I'd known it was your birthday... (if part)
I'd have bought you a present. (main part)
They can also come the other way round:
I'd have bought you a present if I'd known it was your birthday.
If you'd asked me to marry you, I'd have said no.
We'd have been in trouble if we'd missed the last train.
She wouldn't have become ill if she'd taken the medicine.
It would have been better if they hadn't come to the party.
If you hadn't been so friendly, I wouldn't have talked to you.
What would they have done if they'd lost their jobs?
If I'd told him the truth, how would he have felt?