Hey there! This is TOP episode 44: The Third Conditional

My name’s Ola and I am an English teacher. My goal is to help you start speaking English with confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. It’s time you started speaking English fearlessly! Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning! 

Hello, welcome to today’s episode. Thank you so very much for tuning in! I appreciate your time, and that is why we’re going to jump in right away. First, we’ll figure out whether the third conditional is difficult, then we’ll look at how it works, what is the structure, and when to use it in real-life situations.

I assume you’re here because you want to start speaking English with confidence. Just a quick reminder here, you’ll get there faster if you repeat the sentences out loud. Speak to yourself, hear your own voice, get used to it and feel more confident. Practice grammar at the same time! This is just making the most of your time here. Don’t forget to check yourself. Do one grammar exercise on the third conditional. It’s available at teacherola.com/44. Teacherola.com/44. 

In the show notes to this episode you’ll find links to other episodes on conditionals. We have zero, the first and the second one. In a few weeks, you can expect an episode on mixed conditionals. So stay tuned. 

And now, the one and only: third conditional. Your favourite, huh? If you think the third conditional is difficult, what can I say? You’re right. Sorry to say, but yeah, it is tricky. Still, you need it. In order to express your thought, you need tools. Grammar tools. Let’s begin, shall we?

Ok, so with conditional sentences we have two parts, two clauses. We have a condition and a result. The conditional clause, and the main clause, result clause. 

If I hadn’t eaten too much popcorn, I wouldn’t have gone to bed early.

Do you see my regret? The third conditional is sometimes referred to as unreal past conditional or past hypothetical conditional. None of it happened. I’m just trying to imagine a different past, alternative past. I’m looking back, and what do I see? Did I eat too much popcorn? Yes, I did. Did I have to go to bed early? Yes, I did, I felt terrible, I wanted to fall asleep. And now, I’m imagining what if things went different? All I’m doing is useless and counterproductive, it’s not gonna help, nobody can change the past. Nevertheless, I’m wondering, what if? What if I hadn’t eaten so much popcorn? The first part did not happen, and the result clause as well. I did go to bed early. But what would have happened if I hadn’t eaten too much? Well, I wouldn’t have gone to bed early. 

OK, so, how is it organised? The structure of the third conditional goes like this:

If + past perfect, would have + past participle (that is verb III)

Let me repeat:

If + past perfect, would have + past participle (that is verb III)

Past perfect is had + verb III. For example had done, had gone, had been.

So again:

If I hadn’t eaten too much popcorn, 

So that was past perfect ‘hadn’t eaten’, comma,

I wouldn’t have gone to bed so early.

Would or wouldn’t, have, and the third form of the verb ‘go’, ‘gone’.

I wouldn’t have gone to bed so early.

Your turn. Listen and repeat:

If I hadn’t eaten too much popcorn, I wouldn’t have gone to bed so early.

If I hadn’t seen that film, I wouldn’t have recommended it to you.

If you hadn’t reminded me, I would have forgotten about Ana’s birthday.

If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have watched another episode of this new show.

Now. Can we use different modal verbs in the result clause? Yes, we can. We can replace would have with might have or could have. Let’s practice repeating out loud. First three sentences with ‘might’

If I had known that, I might have called you earlier.

If I had finished work earlier, I might have visited you.

If he had finished his studies, he might have had a more fulfilling career.

And a few examples with could have:

If you had told me your phone was broken, I could have given you mine.

If I’d practised more when I was young, I could have become a pianist.

If my sister hadn’t lent me her dress, I wouldn’t have gone

In everyday life though, things are not always that clear. Things get messy, don’t they? People are speaking fast, especially native speakers. You won’t hear them saying: If I had known. What you’ll hear is: If I’d known. If I’d known. You won’t hear I would have gone. Instead, you’ll hear: I would’ve gone. Contraction. Contract. You had: you’d, I had: I’d, we had: we’d, she had: she’s, he had: he’d. 

Once I saw David Beckham’s Instagram post. He was reminiscing about the past when he played football. He wrote in that post something along these lines:

If our coach had known that, he would of killed us. 

It was a mistake. Would of. Would of That kind of mistake is quite common among native speakers. Sounds awful, never do this. Don’t copy David Beckham. You know what should be fixed here. Would HAVE. He would have killed us. Contracting is such a commonplace for native speakers, they get reckless with pronunciation. Still, it doesn’t sound nice, ok? It’s annoying to hear. 

When do we use the third conditional sentences in real-life situations? The very first that comes to my mind is expressing regret. You did or didn’t do something and it can’t be taken back, ok? It’s done. But you regret it and start wondering about things you cannot change. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s painful. Ok, examples, right? Let’s  repeat:

If we had known the weather would be so bad in July, we would have chosen August for our holiday.

If I had known that this online course was so poor, I wouldn’t have wasted my money on it.

If I had been there with you, I would have stopped you.

Regrets. Ok, and now, from time to time we feel the urge to criticise someone, for something they did, don’t we? Let’s practice repeating:

If you hadn’t texted your ex-boyfriend, you wouldn’t have met him yesterday. 

If we had taken a taxi, we wouldn’t have missed the plane.

If you hadn’t been rude to your sister, she would have helped you with the renovation.

And please forgive me, but this simple, classic school example is so easy to remember, let’s repeat it:

If you had studied, you would have passed the exam.

If you’d studied, you would’ve passed the exam.

One more thing, the last one. Sometimes we are curious, and we want to know what are the things other people regret. Listen and repeat:

What would you have done if you hadn’t finished medical school?

What would you have done differently If you had known about the upcoming crisis?

What would you have done if the neighbours hadn’t helped you?

This is it. Thank you so very much for being here with me till the end of this episode. At the beginning, I said it was going to be difficult. What do you think now? Is the third conditional difficult? What do you reckon? Let me know what you think! Go to teacherola.com/44 and leave a comment. 

And when you’re there, scroll down to the bottom of the post to download the worksheet. This is crucial! If you want to make sure the third conditional is clear for you now, you need to test yourself. Do the exercise and let me know what’s your score. I’m really interested in your progress!

If you find this episode useful tell your friends about me. And in the next episode, we will focus on pronunciation. Subscribe my podcast to make sure you won’t miss it. 

Thank you for listening and till next time! Happy learning. Bye!