Mixed Conditionals

Unreal conditionals (second and third conditionals) sometimes can be mixed. We use mixed conditionals when the time of the if-clause (condition clause) is not the same as the time in the result clause (main clause).

mixed conditional
via http://grammar-tei.com/mixed-conditional-pravila-primery-uprazhneniya/

There are two main types of mixed conditional sentences:

  1. Present Result of a Past Condition
  2. Past Result of a Present or Continuing Condition

Present Result of a Past Condition

We use this mixed conditional sentence to refer to an unreal past condition and its probable present result. More simply, we use this mixed conditional to explain a situation which is not real both in the past and in the present.

For these sentences, we use the Past Perfect in the “if”/condition clause and the Present Conditional in the result/main clause.

If Clause (Condition)Main Clause (Result)
If + Past PerfectPresent conditional (would + verb)
mixed conditional pattern
via http://grammar-tei.com/mixed-conditional-pravila-primery-uprazhneniya/
  • If you had followed the rules, we wouldn’t be in trouble. (but you didn’t follow the rules – in the past – and now we’re in trouble)
  • I would have a better job if I had tried harder. (but I didn’t try harder, and now I don’t have a better job)
Note: Again, the order of the clauses does not matter. But remember, when the condition clause comes first, we put a comma after it. If the main clause comes first, we don’t need a comma.

We can also use modals like ‘might‘ and ‘could‘ in the main clause instead of ‘would’.

  • You might have more money if you had worked more hours.
  • If we had invested in that company, we could be millionaires by now.

Past Result of a Present or Continuing Condition

We use this type of mixed conditional sentence to refer to an unreal present situation and its probable – yet unreal – past result. We use it to explain conditions that are contrary to the present reality and results that are contrary to the past reality. The time in the condition clause is now or always while the time in the main clause is before now.

In this mixed conditional sentence, the condition or “if” clause uses the Past Simple tense, and the Perfect Conditional in the main/result clause.

If Clause (Condition)Main Clause (Result)
If + Past SimplePerfect conditional (would have + past participle)
mixed contitional pattern
via http://grammar-tei.com/mixed-conditional-pravila-primery-uprazhneniya/
  • I would have touched the snake if I wasn’t afraid of them.
  • If we knew about the project, we would have helped.

Again, we can use modals like ‘might‘ and ‘could‘ instead of ‘would’ in the result clause.

  • She could have climbed the wall if she were stronger.
  • I might have invited her to my baby shower if we were friends.

Here’s a good video from 7ESL explaining mixed conditionals:

Read more on this topic:

Zero and First Conditional

The Second Conditional

The Third Conditional

Conditional Verbs and Expressions

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