Conditional Sentences Type 3

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Conditional Sentences Type 3 – Understanding meaning, structure, and usage of conditional sentences type 3 in daily activity.

Learn about it!

Function

Have you ever regretted about things you did or did not do in the past?
Sometimes in life we wish that something would have happened differently from the reality.

To express this kind of situation in English, there is a certain sentence called ‘conditional sentence (type 3)’. This is what you are going to learn from this lesson.

Take a look at the following example:

If she had studied law in college, she would have become a lawyer.

‘If she had studied law in college’ means she did not study law in college.
And ‘she would have been a lawyer’ means she is not a lawyer.
The sentence tells us that it is impossible for her to become a lawyer now because she did not study law in college.

Conditional sentence type 3 is used to express an impossible situation and its probable result in the past.

The situation is unreal because it did not happen. This type of conditional expresses the contrary of the reality and most of the time it implies regret. Read another example below.

If I had eaten breakfast, I would not have fainted.

The sentence says “If I had eaten breakfast”, in reality ‘I did not eat breakfast’.
“I would not have fainted” means that in reality ‘I fainted’. The sentence implies ‘my regret for not having breakfast’.

Conditional sentence is divided into two clauses: ‘IF CLAUSE’ and ‘MAIN CLAUSE’.

  • ‘IF CLAUSE’ is the clause with the word ‘if’. It usually indicates the condition.
  • ‘MAIN CLAUSE’ is the rest, the clause without ‘if’. It usually indicates the result. Take a look at the following example:

I would have won the contest if I had practiced more often.

The main clause “I would have won the contest” indicates the probable result of the condition. The condition itself is indicated by if clause, “if I had practiced more often”. The real situation is I did not win the contest and I did not practice more often.

Form

The verb that is used in conditional type 3 is in ‘past participle’ form.
Look at the previous examples:

  1. If she had studied law in college, she would have become a lawyer.
  2. If I had eaten breakfast, I would not have fainted.
  3. I would have won the contest if I had practiced more often.
  • The verbs in the first example are ‘studied’ which is past participle of study, and ‘become’which is past participle of become.
  • The second one are ‘eaten’ which is past participle of eat, and ‘fainted’ which is past participle of faint.
  • The last ones are ‘won’ which is past participle of win; and ‘practiced’ which is past participle of practice.

The ‘IF CLAUSE’ is always written in past perfect tense. While the ‘MAIN CLAUSE’ is always written in perfect conditional.

Look at the ‘IF CLAUSE’ in example number 1: after the SUBJECT (She) there is always ‘had’ with ‘past participle verb’ (studied), so the ‘IF CLAUSE’ is If she had studied.
Look at the ‘MAIN CLAUSE’ in example 1: after the SUBJECT (she), there is ‘would have’ with ‘past participle verb’ (become), so the sentence is she would have become.

The verbs in both clauses are always in past participle.

‘IF CLAUSE’ can be written first and ‘MAIN CLAUSE’ next or vice versa. It would not change the meaning.

          IF CLAUSE: IF + (Subject) + had + past participle

          MAIN CLAUSE: IF + (Subject) + would have + past participle

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