Grammar Lesson: Third Conditional

If you hadn’t come to San Francisco, where would you have studied?
If you hadn’t done your homework, what would your teacher have said to you?
If you had passed that exam, what would you have done to celebrate?

We use the thrid conditional to reconstruct imaginery situations in the past. For example, ‘what would have happened, if the Titantic hadn’t sunk?’ Well, firstly, the great ship would have sailed on strong and continued to it’s final destinantion. We might then ask ourselves, ‘what would have happened, if the Titantic had made it to New York?’. It is very possible, that those looking to find a whole new life in the USA, would have fulfilled their dreams.

As we can see from the examples above, we are using the third conditional to picture a different past. Moreover, the language we use is hypothetical or ‘imaginery’. We construct the third conditional through two main components:

1) ‘If’ clause
2) ‘Would Have’ clause

The ‘If’ clause may be formulated as:

‘If’ + Past Perfect

If I hadn’t become an English teacher…

The ‘Would Have’ clause may be formulated as:

‘Would Have’ + Past Participle

… I would have been an art historian

Luckily for us, both the ‘If’ and the ‘Would Have’ clause can be used before or after one another. Compare the following:

If I hadn’t moved to Argentina, I wouldn’t have learned Spanish
I wouldn’t have learned Spanish, if I hadn’t moved to Argentina

Finally, as we saw at the start of this lesson, when forming a question in the thrid conditional, we must insert a question word before the ‘Would Have’ clause. This can take the form of what, how, where etc.

How would you have managed, if he hadn’t given you such great advice?
If she had lent you her bike, where would you have cycled?

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