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Session 1

Do you have 90 seconds? Do you want to learn something useful about the third conditional? Then join Finn as he attempts to explain one useful tip against the clock

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Challenge Finn: The third conditional

Welcome to our first BBC English Class video.

In this series we teach you the grammar you need to know - in just 90 seconds!

This time we join Finn as he tries to explain when to use the third conditional. And we find out why he's in a fire escape!

Watch the video and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

Hello, from a fire escape. Why am I in a fire escape? Because I got a bit lost. Sorry about that.

But while we're here, let's talk about some grammar. And today we're looking at the third conditional. OK, but I know you're a busy person. You know I'm a busy person. We don't have time to remind ourselves that the third conditional is: if + past perfect + would + have + the past participle. We don't have time to do that!

Instead, I'm going to give you just one thing that you need to remember if you forget everything else. One crucial tip. And I'm going to do it in 30 seconds, actually, one minute and 30 seconds, give myself a bit more time. Here it is, one minute and 30 seconds, starting now. BEEP.

The question is: when do you use the third conditional? And the answer is: when you're talking about a past situation that didn't happen. OK? A past situation that didn't happen.

Right now I'm in a fire escape. Why? Because I'm lost. So in the past I didn't pay attention. So the past situation that didn't happen is me paying attention. So we can use a third conditional here, we can say: if I had paid attention, I wouldn't have got lost. OK? If I had paid attention, I wouldn't have got lost. Let's think of one more. But, if I hadn't got lost, I wouldn't have found this beautiful, very beautiful number three. So, this number three... third conditional... see the connection? Hopefully this will help us remember when to use it. If I hadn't got lost, I wouldn't have found this number three.

And that's it! I have nine seconds remaining. So just remember, the third conditional is for when we're talking about a past situation that didn't happen. Now all I need to do is find my way out of here. Erm, I'm going to go this way. See you.

Poor Finn! Let's hope he can find his way out! Actually, we're not sure he really is lost...

Either way, let's look at...

The main point

  • The third conditional is used for a past situation that didn't happen.

In the video, Finn is lost. He says:

If I had paid attention…

In other words, in the past he did not pay attention. The past situation that did not happen is: Finn paying attention. That's the part we call the conditional clause, or the if clause. Next we have the result:

… I wouldn't have got lost

This is the result of the past situation! It's the result clause or the main clause. Finn did get lost, but if the past was different, he wouldn't have got lost.

... And he wouldn't have found the big number three which was useful for this video.

Check it!

Just to check you understood, answer this question:

What DIDN'T happen in the past?

  1. Finn paid attention
  2. Finn got lost

The answer is: Finn didn't pay attention! As a result he got lost! So: If Finn had paid attention, he wouldn't have got lost!

To do

And now, we have a quiz to make sure you understand when to use third conditional. After that we'll have a reminder of the form. First read Morag's story, then answer the questions in the quiz.

Morag's story:

Morag woke up late. Because of that, she didn't have time for breakfast. This meant she was hungry on the way to work, she got into an argument with another passenger. During the argument she accidentally smashed her phone. If she hadn't gone out late last night, none of this would have happened.

Morag's third conditional story

5 Questions

Time to test your knowledge of the third conditional.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
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As Finn said in the video, here's a reminder of the form for the third conditional:

If + past perfect, would + have + past participle

There's more about it in our Grammar Reference section.

End of Session 1

That's it. If you hadn't watched our video, you wouldn't have seen Finn in an embarrassing situation!

In Session 2, we have a new programme called News Review. See you there!

Session Grammar

  • The third conditional

    If you forget everything else:

    The third conditional is used for a past situation that didn't happen.

    And the form is:

    If + past perfect, would + have + past participle

Session Vocabulary

  • fire escape
    stairs people use to exit a burning building

    pay attention
    watch or listen to something carefully

    very important