English Learner Article English Conditionals: Third Conditional

Summary: How to use the third conditional in English

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Third Conditional: Imaginary Past

The third conditional is used when we are talking about the past and imagining something different from what actually happened:


Condition Result What actually happened
 Past Perfect WOULD HAVE + Past Participle  
If I had known, I would have helped. I didn't know and didn't help.

 

IF Condition ResultCertainty
  past perfect WOULD HAVE+ past participle  
If I had known, I would have helped. Although this didn't happen, the speaker is sure about the result.
If I had known, I could have helped. Although this didn't happen, the result is only a possibility.
If I had known, I might have helped. Although this didn't happen, the result is only a possibility.
If you had known, you should have helped. Although this didn't happen, it is only a good suggestion or piece of advice.
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