Third Conditional


Here is a grammar presentation and practice exercises for the third conditional for ESL teachers and students. You will find a free printable download of this lesson at the bottom of the page. The exercises don't have to all be done during the same lesson, but can be spread over a few consecutive lessons, which will help the students to remember the grammar point better long term.

Grammar Presentation

These are things which are:

  1. in the past, and therefore impossible to change
  2. we use it to express regret

If + Past Perfect + would have + Past Participle
(continuous) wouldn't have
IfI hadn't studied, Iwouldn't havepassed the exam.
IfI had seen him, Iwould havetold him.
Ifshe hadn't gone out, shewouldn't havegot sick.
IfJohn hadn't been driving, hewouldn't havegot a fine.

If the result is not sure, we can use: Would Probably, Might Have or Could Have

IfI had studied, Imight havepassed the exam.
IfI had seen him, Icould havetold him.
Ifshe hadn't gone out, sheprobably wouldn't havegot sick.

Would(n't) have + Past Participle + if + Past Perfect
could/might have (continuous)
I could havepassed the examifI had studied.
I would havetold himifI had seen him.
She might havegone to the partyifshe had known about it.
He wouldn't havebought it, evenifhe had had the money.


Sometimes the ‘IF’ clause is implied, but not spoken:

  • He wouldn’t have said that. (if he had been there)
  • I would have done it. (if you had asked me)
  • I wouldn’t have let him get away with it. (if I had been there)

Exercise 1

Change the words in brackets into their correct form (answers are in the free download at the bottom of the page):

  1. If you ______________ interrupting me the whole time, I would have enjoyed the movie. (be)
  2. If I had had your number, I _____________________ you. (phone)
  3. They _____________________ that route if they had known that there were road works. (take)
  4. I wouldn’t have booked that holiday if I ______________ there was a cheaper deal. (know)
  5. If I _________________ my job, I wouldn’t have moved to London. (lose)
  6. I ________________ used Groupon if I had known that it existed. (have)
  7. If I had seen the weather forecast, I _________________ an umbrella. (pack)
  8. If the weather ________________better yesterday, I would have gone for a swim. (be)

Exercise 2

Write the following phrases onto flashcards and place them face down on the table. The students need to choose, and complete it with a third conditional in their own words.

  • ….. I would have been happier
  • If I had been born in the 19th century…..
  • If I had been an only child…..
  • …..the world would have been a better place.
  • If Superman had been a girl….
  • If the 2nd World War hadn’t happened….
  • …..I would have been a supermodel.
  • …..I wouldn’t have got an education.

Exercise 3

Give each of the students a blank piece of paper. They need to write one third conditional sentence about their past at the top. The students then need to pass their pages to the student on their left. Now each student needs to write another third conditional sentence to continue the consequences. Continue until the page gets back to the original student, or they have had enough. Get the students to read out their stories. e.g .If I had been born 100 years ago, I wouldn’t have gone to university. If you hadn’t gone to university, you wouldn’t have been able to get a job.

Exercise 4

The students need to write down 5 regrets that they have. They then need to take turns telling the other students about their regrets, while the other students have to reassure them by giving them possible worse consequences. e.g. If I had spent more time training, I could have become an Olympic swimmer. If you had spent more time swimming, you would have drowned in the pool.

Exercise 5

With this exercise, you can practice the third conditional and some current vocabulary that the students are learning. Place the vocabulary on flashcards face down on the table. The students take turns picking up a word, and asking other students a question with that word. The student has to answer the question with a third conditional e.g. ‘fuse’ Do you know where the fuse is for your oven? If I had been there when the builders installed the electrics, I would have seen where the fuse was installed.

Exercise 6

Give the students a scenario where something has gone wrong. They have to blame each other for what happened (get them to do this exercise in pairs).

e.g. You locked yourselves out of the house.

If you had reminded me to take my keys, we wouldn’t be stuck outside.

If you hadn’t been in such a rush, I wouldn’t have run out in such a hurry.

If you had put the keys where they should have been, I would have seen them. etc etc

Possible scenarios:

You can’t remember where you parked your car.

You got lost.

You missed the sales.

You overslept.

You failed an exam.

Free Downloadable Lesson Plan

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