If Only, If Only – Part Two: The Difference between the Conditional Three and a Mixed Time Conditional

In my last post, I discussed the differences between Conditional One (Real) and Conditional Two (Unreal) sentences.  There are two other commonly used conditional forms:  Conditional Three and Mixed-Time Conditionals.


A Conditional Three sentence talks about unreal past situations. 

For example:

Baby and parents


My parents met, married, and had a baby—me!  What would be the result of different conditions?  Let’s pretend they did not meet. (This is our unreal/imaginary condition.) How would the results be different?

  • If they had never met, I would not have been born.    (They did meet, and the rest is history!)
  • If I had not been born, I would not have written this.  (I was born, and I did write this!)

Example Two:

English Dictionary

Over time, English became the lingua franca used for international trade, research, technology, and diplomacy.

  • If English hadn’t become the world language, you might not have decided to study it.
  • If you hadn’t ever studied it, you couldn’t have read this sentence.

NOTE:  We can use “might” to express possibility in the same way that we use “could.”  Page Break

Mixed-Time Conditional sentences speculate about how an imaginary past situation would (or might) affect us now.  

For example:

Dinosaur in the forest

  • If dinosaurs had not become extinct, we would have to run from this guy every day!
  • If dinosaurs had continued to exist, they might be our top predator.

Example Two:

Campfire Girl with smart phone

If cell phone technology hadn’t been invented, we might still use smoke signals to send messages!

If we hadn’t found cell phones to be so fun and convenient, all of us wouldn’t be addicted to them now.


Here are the verb patterns that we use to show these true/possible conditions.



  Condition clause    Result clause

Conditional Three




If + S + past perfect,




If I hadn’t been born,


S + would have + V 3

S + could have

S + might have


I would never have written this.

I could not have studied this grammar.

my parents might have had a different child.






If + S + past perfect,




If I hadn’t written this,


S + could + V1

S + would

S + might


this page would be empty now.

you couldn’t study these verb forms here.

you might still wonder what this verb tense means.



Video Practice



Now you try it!

Car accident

Picture 1

Dead plants in pots

Picture 2

 Practice:  Tell about these pictures using Conditional Three and Mixed-Time Conditional sentences.

(Possible answer choices below)







Possible Answers:  

Picture #1

Conditional Three

  • If he hadn’t texted his friend, he wouldn’t have gotten into an accident.
  • If he had seen the stop sign, he would have stopped in time.
  • If there hadn’t been an accident, the ambulance wouldn’t have come.

Mixed-Time Conditional

  • If he hadn’t gotten into an accident, his car would still be in good condition.
  • If the car hadn’t flipped over, the other cars could continue driving.
  • If he had been a better driver, his family wouldn’t feel so sad now.


Picture #2

Conditional Three

  • If I had watered my plants, they wouldn’t have died.
  • If I hadn’t forgotten my plants in the hot sun, they wouldn’t have turned brown.
  • If I had been a better gardener, I wouldn’t have killed my plants.

Mixed-Time Conditional

  • If I had watered my plants, they would be alive now.
  • If I hadn’t forgotten my plants, they would be green now.
  • If I had taken better care of my plants, my house would look more beautiful now.