Learn English Grammar: How to use the 3rd conditional

Learn English Grammar: How to use the 3rd conditional
Learn English Grammar How to use the 3rd conditional

Do you wish your life were different? In today’s English grammar lesson, you’ll learn how to talk about the present if the past had been different. We often use the 3rd conditional to talk about our regrets and the life lessons we’ve learned. To use the third conditional, we use the past perfect tense with the past participle form of the verb. I’ll teach you the sentence structure so you can recognize and build these sentences yourself. I’ll also give you lots of example sentences, so you’ll be confident using the third conditional when you’re speaking or writing in English.
Make sure you understood the lesson. Take the quiz:

Watch my videos on the other conditionals in English:





Today I am sad. I am full of regret. Uhh. Yes, that’s right, today we’re doing the third conditional. This is the conditional tense of regret, wishing that the past was different. I’m sure, girls, you’re not guilty of that. Right. We’re going to be looking at the third conditional and obviously how to use it. Hopefully it will add interest to the way in which you speak, and in which you write.

Firstly, I’d like you to think of an event that you feel bad about. Okay? So thinking back in your mind to something that you did that wasn’t very good. Okay? So it was something in the past that has started and it’s finished. Okay? Like: Yesterday I kissed a parrot and I was very sick. Okay? So it’s something… Something I regret and I feel really bad about it. And things would have been different if I hadn’t kissed this parrot. How would things have been different? Well, I wouldn’t have been sick. Okay?

So, this is how we use the third conditional: “If I hadn’t”, okay? “Had not”, this is the past perfect here, “had”. “If I had not kissed a parrot I wouldn’t”-would not-“have been ill.” Okay? The thing is we can’t change the past, but we’re looking back at the past here and going: “Oh, if I hadn’t done that, things would have been a little bit different.” That is the purpose of this tense. Okay?

So, what is the magic formula for this tense? Well, we use “if” plus past perfect. Okay? So that’s the… Basically it’s like the “had” plus “ed” is probably an easy way of thinking it. “If I had smiled more, I might have got laid.” I don’t know. “If I had worked harder”, no, that’s crap. “If I had”, yeah, no, no, it’s good, it’s good because we’ got the “ed” so past perfect. Yeah “If I…” Sorry. “If” plus past perfect plus “could”, or “would”, or “should have”, and then past participle. So if it’s a regular verb, obviously looking at your “ed”; if it’s not, then check your irregular verb forms. Okay? “If” past perfect, “could” or “would” plus “have” plus past perfect. Okay, so: “If”, past perfect, “had kissed”, “could” or “would”, well, I’ve got my “would” here, and then “have”, and then past participle, obviously, the verb “be” is irregular. Now, we often use the negative forms, here, so you’re kind of adding on your “not” after your, you know, into your past perfect structure. Okay? Ask me if you’re a bit confused. I can help. I have magic powers to help you.

So another way of putting this, another way of… You know, you’ve got your two phrases. Yeah? If we look here we have: “If” plus past perfect, plus “could” or “would”, plus “have”, plus past participle. We can change the order of this to: “could” or “would” plus “have”, plus past participle, plus “if”, plus past perfect. So, I could change this order around to: “I wouldn’t have been ill if I hadn’t kissed the parrot.” Okay? Obviously we’re putting in the negative there. Okay? So just a different… Slightly different way of playing it.

I’m going to give you lots of opportunity to practice this by doing the quiz later, but just a couple of examples using this first form. Don’t know if any of you have been listening to English nursery rhymes, they’re little songs we listen to when we’re kids here. But I’m referring to these here. “If Mary had a little lamb, we would have had a farm.” Okay? So, “if”, and then we have our past perfect, “had”, and then “we would have had…” Okay? If this had happened, we would have… But she didn’t have a little lamb, so there was no farm. Okay? Remember we can’t change the past. We’re just looking back and asking for it to be a little bit different.

“If Humpty Dumpty hadn’t had a fall, I wouldn’t have spent the day picking him up.” Okay? So this one I’m using the negative here. “If Humpty Dumpty had”… “Had, had”-so, past perfect-“a fall, I wouldn’t have spent”. Okay? There’s my past participle of “to spend the day picking him up”.


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