Type 3 Conditional

Form

In a Type 3 conditional sentence, the tense in the 'if' clause is the past perfect, and the tense in the main clause is the perfect conditional or the perfect continuous conditional.

If clause (condition) Main clause (result)
If + past perfect perfect conditional or perfect continuous conditional
If this thing had happened that thing would have happened.

As in all conditional sentences, the order of the clauses is not fixed. You may have to rearrange the pronouns and adjust punctuation when you change the order of the clauses, but the meaning is identical.

Examples
  • If it had rained, you would have gotten wet.
  • You would have gotten wet if it had rained.
  • You would have passed your exam if you had worked harder.
  • If you had worked harder, you would have passed your exam.
  • I would have believed you if you hadn't lied to me before.
  • If you hadn't lied to me before, I would have believed you.

Function

The type 3 conditional refers to an impossible condition in the past and its probable result in the past. These sentences are truly hypothetical and unreal, because it is now too late for the condition or its result to exist. There is always some implication of regret with type 3 conditional sentences. The reality is the opposite of, or contrary to, what the sentence expresses. In type 3 conditional sentences, the time is the past and the situation is hypothetical.

Examples
  • If I had worked harder I would have passed the exam. (But I didn't work hard, and I didn't pass the exam.)
  • If I had known you were coming I would have baked a cake. (But I didn't know and I didn't bake a cake.)
  • I would have been happy if you had called me on my birthday. (But you didn't call me and I am not happy.)

In type 3 conditional sentences, you can also use modals in the main clause instead of "would" to express the degree of certainty, permission, or a recommendation about the outcome.

Examples
  • If I had worked harder I might have passed the exam.
  • You could have been on time if you had caught the bus.
  • If he called you, you could go.
  • If you bought my school supplies for me, I might be able to go to the park.
Contractions

Both would and had can be contracted to 'd, which can be confusing if you are not confident with type 3 conditional sentences. Remember 2 rules:
1. would never appears in the if-clause so if 'd appears in the if clause, it must be abbreviating had.
2. had never appears before have so if 'd appears on a pronoun just before have, it must be abbreviating would.

Examples
  • If I'd known you were in hospital, I'd have visited you.
  • If I had known you were in hospital, I would have visited you.
  • I'd have bought you a present if I'd known it was your birthday.
  • I would have bought you a present if I had known it was your birthday.
  • If you'd given me your e-mail, I'd have written to you.
  • If you had given me your e-mail, I would have written to you.

The perfect conditional tense

The perfect conditional of any verb is composed of three elements:
would + have + past participle
Have followed by the past participle is used in other constructions as well. it is called the "perfect infinitive".

Subject + would + have + past participle
He would have gone
They would have stayed
To Go: perfect conditional
Affirmative Negative Interrogative Interrogative Negative
I would have gone I wouldn't have gone Would I have gone? Wouldn't I have gone?
You would have gone You wouldn't have gone Would you have gone? Wouldn't you have gone?
He would have gone He wouldn't have gone Would he have gone? Wouldn't he have gone?
She would have gone She wouldn't have gone Would she have gone? Wouldn't she have gone?
We would have gone We wouldn't have gone Would we have gone? Wouldn't we have gone?
They would have gone They wouldn't have gone Would they have gone? Wouldn't they have gone?
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