Hypothesis and regrets in theory
Let’s begin! I suggest that you first watch this brief explanation of the third conditional from BBC Learning English. Try to grab the concept of how we use it.
Now read a short story. Pay attention to the bolded verbs.
If Jason hadn’t left for the island, the burglars wouldn’t have broken into his house. The burglars wouldn’t have broken into the house if there had been an alarm either. So, they took a risk. But they didn’t know about a dog, a big silent dog living there.
The dog attacked the burglars and frightened them to death. Bitten and shocked, they fled leaving a lot of traces for the police.
Had it not been for the dog, the burglars would have robbed the house and the police couldn’t have found them so quickly. And if the burglars hadn’t been arrested, Jason might have arrived to find his house ruined. Had the burglars been a little smarter, they would have chosen a different profession.
Forms of the Third Conditional
If + Past Perfect, would/wouldn’t + have + V3.
If John had overslept, he would have missed his meeting.
If my girlfriend hadn’t been wearing a hat, I would have noticed her new haircut.
If we start a sentence with a condition (the if-part), we separate it from the result with a comma.
If I had the time, I would have helped you. = I would have helped you if I had the time.
Instead of “would”
We can use might, could or should instead of would.
E.g.: If you had prepared for the pitch, you could have been more successful. We might have missed our plane if we hadn’t left on time.
In spoken American English, people sometimes use would in the if-clause. This is highly unusual for British English. Compare:
US: I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t / wouldn’t have given me a hand.
UK: I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t given me a hand.
We can invert a Third Conditional sentence to make it more emphatic.
Had they not returned home that day, they might never have discovered the robbery.
Other conditional structures
|If it hadn’t been for somebody/something||If it hadn’t been for the surgery, Ron would have died.|
|Had it not been for somebody/something||Had it not been for your advice, I would have lost that opportunity.|
|But for somebody/something||Elsa would have never become a doctor but for the support of her grandparents.|
|Suppose/supposing||Suppose your husband had said “yes”, what would you have done then?|
We use the Third Conditional:
- to talk about hypothetical situations in the past: Linda would have married Nathan if he had only asked her.
- to express our regrets about the past: If I had studied harder, I would have passed the exam.
Now you are ready for a short test. Move on to the next lesson.