Unreal conditionals Mixed time conditionals
The second and third conditionals are the two most obvious types of unreal conditional sentences. They are different due to the time that they refer to, but they are the same in one way: the situations that they show are unreal, hypothetical, and contrary to fact.
But the English language isn’t just restricted to 4 models of conditionals. Often the circumstances of life require more combinations. Often a condition from the past can have a result in the present or the future, this gives mixed times (that is, different times for the condition and the result) for unreal conditionals.
- If John had played yesterday, he would be free today. / He would be free
today if he had played yesterday.
(He didn’t play yesterday, so he isn’t free today. He is training)
- If her family had moved to England when she was 4 years old, her English would be perfect now./ Her English would be perfect now if her family had moved to England when she was 4 years old
(Her English isn’t perfect because her family moved to England when she was 18 years old.)
- If he had been working for 3 years, he would be able to buy a car this year./ He would be able to buy a car this year if he had been working for 3 years.
(He won’t be able to buy a car at any time this year because he hasn’t been working for 3 years)
- If my son had been born in 1999, he would start in secondary school this year./ My son would start at secondary school this year if he had been born in 1999
(He was born in 2000 and won’t start secondary school until next year)
A past condition can lead to a possible present or future result but not, of course, a past result
Another mixed conditional has the condition (unreal) in general time and the result in past time:
- If he weren’t so inefficient, he would’ve finished his project last week. / He would’ve
finished his project last week if he weren’t so inefficient.
(He didn’t finish his project last week because he’s very inefficient.)
- If I needed help, I would’ve taken my car to a mechanic. /I would’ve taken my car to a mechanic if I needed help.
(I was able to repair my car myself, so I didn’t need to use a mechanic.)
- If she walked more quickly, she would’ve arrived half an hour ago. / She would’ve
arrived half an hour ago if she walked more quickly.
(She didn’t arrive half an hour ago because she doesn’t walk quickly.)
- If Mary’s family had more money, she wouldn’t have needed to work at the weekends. /
Mary wouldn’t have needed to work at the weekends if her family had more money.
(Mary’s family don’t have a lot of money, so she needed to work at the weekends.)