third conditional: 'could have', would have', and 'should have'
we looked at three uses of the conditional. There is also a fourth
type of condition, which is often referred to as the third conditional.
Al-Shoulah from Saudi Arabia asks:
check the following sentence for me: ‘I had never should leave the
job.’ What I mean is that the action of leaving the job has been
made. After that, I recognised that what I did was wrong. Therefore,
is the tense of the above-mentioned sentence correct? If not, please
not quite right syntactically, Hani. To express this idea, you need
should have + past participle, so it should read:
never have left my job.'
For the if clause, you need the past perfect.
The main clause would then read:
'I should never have left my job. If I had stayed
with BP, I would have won promotion and I would be a rich
that if we wish to give emphasis to the condition and make it sound
more dramatic and formal, we can omit if in the subordinate
clause and invert subject and verb:
'Had I stayed with my previous job, I would have won
promotion and we wouldn’t be in this unfortunate position now.'
Consider the following:
'I shouldn’t have gone to Jane’s place for the weekend. If
I’d stayed in London, we could have worked on that
report and it would be finished by now.'
'I should never have agreed to take that parcel on the plane
for him. But I had no idea what was in it. If only I had
said ‘no’, I wouldn’t be in prison now.'
the examples above, note that if only is used to express
a strong wish or regret and that could have suggests a probable
or possible outcome (cf. might have.)
are some further examples of the latter:
'We might have won the match, if Beckham had
been playing from the beginning.'
'I might have gone to school in America, if my
parents hadn’t moved to Singapore.'
'We could have finished that cup of coffee, if you
hadn’t insisted on us being here five minutes early.'
'If cholera had been diagnosed earlier, his life
could have been saved.'
Note the further variations in the above sentences. In the final example,
it is convenient to use the passive voice instead of active voice:
'If they had diagnosed cholera earlier, he might not have died.' And
in the David Beckham example, there is a slight preference for past
perfect progressive rather than past perfect to emphasise the continuity
do you remember those first three uses of the conditional?
that are generally true, where we use the present simple in
both subordinate and main clause
stay inside if the temperature falls below –25°C. I just
don’t go out.
where we are predicting a future event if the condition is met
and where we use future reference in the main clause and the
present simple in the subordinate clause
feel much better tomorrow if you stay at home today
where something unreal is being discussed and
where we use would in the main clause and past simple in the
you accept a diamond ring if he offered it to you? I wouldn’t!