As you watch the video, look at the examples of third conditional sentences. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, the third conditional correctly.
Daisy: Right, I think we’re almost ready. I just hope everyone arrives soon so we can hide before Amy gets here.
Ollie: What time did you tell people to come?
Daisy: About now, and Amy half an hour later.
Ollie: Mmm, but most of our friends arrive late and Amy’s usually early.
Daisy: It’ll be OK, I told them to be on time. They’ll all be here in a minute.
Alfie: Oh, hi, Amy. I bet we’re the first to arrive.
Amy: Hello. First for what?
Alfie: The party, of course. The surprise party.
Amy: I came to revise a bit with Daisy. Nobody told me anything about a party!
Alfie: They must have just forgotten. You can revise another day, can’t you?
Amy: Yes, but I haven’t brought anything, and if I’d known, I would have worn something nicer.
Alfie: I’ll say my present is from both of us, and you look great, you always look great. Um, well, let’s go in, shall we?
Daisy: What are you doing here!?
Alfie: We’re here for the party of course. The surprise party.
Daisy: Well, it’s not a surprise any more, is it?
Alfie: What do you mean?
Ollie: It was a surprise party for Amy, you idiot.
Amy and Alfie: Ohhhh.
Alfie: Well, nobody told me. I thought it was for Sophie.
Ollie: I did tell you. If you didn’t play video games at the same time as you read your texts …
Alfie: I definitely would’ve remembered if you’d told me!
Amy: Listen, it doesn’t matter! I think it’s really, really sweet of you to have a party for me. And I am surprised. I couldn’t be more surprised!
Daisy: Ah, good. Happy birthday for two days ago!
Amy: Thanks a lot, Daisy, and Ollie. It’s a lovely surprise!
Daisy: It would’ve been even better if Alfie hadn’t ruined it!
We use the third conditional (if + past perfect, would + have + past participle) to talk about something in the past that did not happen.
How is the third conditional different from the other conditionals?
This is the way we imagine how things could have been different in the past. If something had been different, something else would have happened. Notice that both the condition and the result are impossible now.
If I’d known, I would have worn something nicer.
In this case, Amy didn’t know about the party so she didn’t wear special clothes.
OK, so the bit after if is different to what really happened?
Yes, then the next clause is imagining the result in the past, which didn’t happen, of course. The if clause can be at the beginning or at the end of the sentence.
I definitely would’ve remembered if you’d told me!
So Alfie didn’t remember because Ollie didn’t tell him.
Exactly. We can use negatives to talk about things that did happen in the past.
He wouldn’t have missed the bus if he hadn’t overslept.
So he overslept and he missed the bus.
Yes. When you’re using this kind of conditional be careful with the contractions. We use 'd for would and had.
If I’d seen him, I’d have asked him to come over. (had, would)
Can you use other verbs apart from would?
Yes, we also use could or might.
If they’d told me, I might have been able to help.
These sentences all seem a bit negative.
Well, yes. We often use the third conditional to express regret or to complain about something.
It would’ve been even better if Alfie hadn’t ruined it!
If I’d known about the third conditional before, I wouldn’t have failed my English test!
Worksheets and downloads
If you had been born a boy/girl, how would your life have been different?