Our month on Conditionals continues! Today we are focusing on the Third Conditional. Do you need to refresh yourself on this grammar point? If so, read our last two grammar lesson entries, The First Conditional and The Second Conditional, before moving on to today’s lesson.

You can’t change the past. This we know! But don’t we sometimes look back and think “what if?” We all do this from time to time, which is why we need the Third Conditional.


Third Conditional

[if + subject + had + past participle] + [subject + would + have + past participle]

The Third Conditional looks back and wonders how things would be different if we could change the past. Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you dated a different person, chose a different university, or picked a different career? We all do! We use the Third Conditional to express these thoughts.

  • If I had majored in engineering, I would have made a lot of money.
  • If I had been born in Spain, I would have grown up speaking Spanish.
  • If she had known she was going to be fired from her job, she wouldn’t have bought that new car.
  • If I had practiced the violin every day, I would have done much better at the performance.
  • If I had studied more, I would have scored better on the test.

Honestly, the Third Conditional can be a little depressing! Don’t you think? But this sentence structure is incredibly important. Every language needs to be able to express this scenario. What can we learn from this conditional? As Buddha once said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Wise words!

Are you ready to practice the Third Conditional? Answer these questions:

1. What would you have done if you had not come to CISL?

(If I hadn’t come to CISL, I would have… + past participle)

2. What language would you have spoken if you had been born in Indonesia?

(If I had been born in Indonesia, I would have… + past participle)

3. What would you have done differently with your life if your parent had been a famous celebrity?

(If my parent had been a famous celebrity, I would have …)

4. What would have happened if you hadn’t worn sunscreen at the beach?

(If I hadn’t worn sunscreen, I would have …)


Complete these sentences:

1.) Use the word: begin
If the class _____________________________ at 10:00 we would have been on time.

2.) Use the word: call
If you _____________________________  earlier I would have invited you to the movies too.

3.) Use the word: fix
If you had told us of these problems by 8:00 a.m. we _____________________________ them this morning.

4.) Use the word: increase
If you had studied harder your test score would _____________________________  dramatically.

5.) Use the word: learn
You _____________________________  everything about conditionals if you had read the other two Grammar Lesson of the Month posts on conditionals.

6.) Use the words: meet & give
If I _____________________________  with Andrea yesterday I _____________________________  her your present.

7.) Use the words: do & complete
You_____________________________  better on your evaluation if you _____________________________  all of the presentation requirements.

8.) Use the words: see & visit
We _____________________________  Sarah if we _____________________________  to her party last week.