If: The 3rd Conditional
1. What is the 3rd conditional?
The 3rd conditional is an ‘if’ phrase for ‘alternative realities’.
That means it is for thinking how life would be different if an event in the past had been different.
There are two ways to talk about alternative realities:
- how the past would have been different if the past event had been different
- how the present would be different if the past event had been different
2. How to make the 3rd conditional: a different past
If talking about how the past would have been different if a past event had been different, the 3rd conditional uses:
- if + past perfect + would/could/might + present perfect
*Past perfect = had + perfect participle (p.p.)
*Present perfect = have + p.p.
*P.p. = done, gone, seen, eaten, etc.
|Actual event||If||Past perfect||Would/could/might||Present perfect||Example sentence|
|I did not study hard. I did not pass.||if||I had studied harder||would||have passed||If I had studied harder, I would have passed|
|He did come to Shanghai. He did meet her.||if||he hadn’t come to Shanghai||would not||have met her||If he hadn’t come to Shanghai, he wouldn’t have met her|
|He was stupid. He was not rich or famous.||if||he hadn’t been so stupid||might||have been rich||They might have been rich and famous if he hadn’t been so stupid|
3. How to make the 3rd conditional: a different present
If talking about how the present would be different if a past event had been different, the 3rd conditional uses:
- if + past perfect + would/could/might + present
|Actual event||If||Past perfect||Would/could/might||Present||Example sentence|
|I called the boss a pig. I am not the boss now.||if||I hadn’t called the boss a pig||might||be the boss||If I hadn’t called the boss a pig, I might be the boss now.|
|She did not buy a lottery ticket. She is not rich now.||if||she had bought a lottery ticket||would||be rich||If she had bought a lottery ticket that day, she would be rich.|
|France did have a revolution. It does not have a royal family now.||if||France hadn’t had its revolution||would||have a royal family||If France hadn’t had its revolution, it would still have a royal family.|
4. Moving the clause positions
The ‘if’ clause can be placed at the start or at the end:
|‘If’ clause at start||‘If’ clause at end|
|If you had told me that, I would not be here.||I would not be here if you had told me that.|
|If the company had fired him, the staff would have gone on strike.||The staff would have gone on strike if the company had fired him.|
|If I had been an Egyptian pharaoh, I would have built a palace 500 metres tall and had servants feed me grapes all day.||I would have built a palace 500 metres tall and had servants feed me grapes all day if I had been an Egyptian pharaoh.|
1. Complete the sentences about ‘alternative realities’ (things that never happened) using the 3rd conditional.
(i) if my teacher had come to my birthday party,…
(ii) if my mother hadn’t met my father, ….
(iii) I would have gone ape (crazily angry) if….
2. Answer the following questions:
(i) How would your life be different if you had been born a different sex?
(ii) How would your home be different if you had been alive 200 years ago?
(iii) What would your personality be like if you had been born with super powers?
3. Think of a historical event. How would the world be different now if it had happened differently, or never happened at all?