What are mixed conditionals?
Mixed conditionals are sentences that contain two different types of conditional; one clause is contains the second conditional and the other contains the third conditional. We use mixed conditionals when we want to refer to two different times in the same conditional sentence.
If I spoke Mandarin, I would have done the translation myself.
Trust me, if I had done this translation, you wouldn’t be able to read it.
Mixed conditionals overview
Take a look at the table below for an overview of the different kinds of mixed conditional sentences in English grammar.
|If I spoke Mandarin,
I would have done the translation myself.
|second conditional if-clause||= imagined present situation
(I don’t speak Mandarin)
|third conditional main clause||= imagined past outcome
(I didn’t do the translation)
|If I had put on sun cream earlier,
I wouldn’t be sunburned now.
|third conditional if-clause||= imagined past situation
(I didn’t put on sun cream)
|second conditional main clause||= imagined present outcome
(I am sunburned now)
Imagined present situation, imagined past outcome
When we use the second conditional in the if-clause, we introduce a condition that imagines the present as different to how it really is:
- If I spoke Mandarin, …
- I cannot speak Mandarin
We can then combine this with a third conditional main clause to imagine a past outcome:
- If I spoke Mandarin, I would have done the translation myself.
- I didn’t do the translation, I am reimagining the past
Imagined past situation, imagined present outcome
Alternatively, when we use the third conditional in the if-clause, we introduce a condition that reimagines the past:
- If I had put on suncream, …
- I didn’t put on suncream, I forgot
We can then combine this with a second conditional main clause to imagine an alternative present:
- If I had put on suncream, I wouldn’t be sunburned now.
- I am sunburned, I am imagining the present as different