13. Mixed Conditionals

If this were heaven, I would have gone already…

Mixed Conditionals

I know some students must be thinking… Oh no! What are these things, these “mixed conditionals”. I wouldn’t worry too much! You don’t really see them in many exams and they are not too hard once you know the basics.

So, what are mixed conditionals in English?

Mixed conditionals combine the structure of two different types of conditionals in the same sentence. This type of sentence is used to express a situation where the condition and its result are not in the same time frame.

This is the key concept, time frame: when did the action take place.

Important:

Firstly, It’s a really, really good idea to have clear what a conditional is and what the 0, 1, 2, 3 conditionals are.

Here you have a course for the 1st and 2nd conditional and here you have a course for the 2nd and the 3rd conditional in English.
We also wrote some blog articles. Here is the first, the second and the third conditional on our blog. They are written in Spanish which is pretty useful!

Secondly, remember you can switch the order of all conditionals: If I went, I would be happy. I would be happy, if I went.

Thirdly, use a comma to seperate the clauses.

Fourthly and finally, native speakers often use “was” instead of “were”. Non-native speakers often confuse the different clauses (but the meaning is clear) and so you should kleep an eye out for that.

The mixed conditionals:

There are two very common mixed conditionals. There are more versions, but we will not be going into them in this course as they are not really essential.

Present result of a past condition: If I had sat, I would be sitting

This is a very good one and it is very clear.

We start with the third conditional “If I had… eaten that cake, …”

And we finish with the second: “I would be full”.

If I had eaten that cake (if this past action were true), I would be full (this thing would be true in the present).

So it’s “if+past event that didn’t happen+this result”

Here are some examples:

If I had lost my keys, I wouldn’t be able to go in my house.

If I had asked him earlier, I wouldn’t look so silly now.

If they had checked the container, we wouldn’t have this problem now.

Past result from present condition: We would have laughed, if he were funny

It’s better to say: Hypothetical past result from hypothetical present condition: We would have laughed, if he were funny.

We, in the past, would have laughed (we didn’t laugh), if he were funny (if he were hypothetically funny… which he is not!)

An easy way to think about it is:

X would have happened, if Y were true.

Here are some examples for you:

If the university were powerful, they would have stopped the students’ behaviour.

If petrol cars didn’t pollute, we wouldn’t have innovated and created electric ones.

They would have been nicer with the client, if they thought he were worth it.