Mixed Conditional

This type of conditional is called the Mixed Conditional because it refers to a mix of tenses in one sentence. We can use the Mixed Conditional in different ways, depending on what meaning we want to convey. Below, you will find the two most common usages of mixed conditional


Past Condition with Present Result

In this usage, we have a past condition (the conditional clause refers to the past) with a present result (the main clause, or result clause refers to the present). We use the Past Perfect Simple to show that the condition is in the past.

Form

Conditional Clause

Main Clause

If

+

Past Perfect,

+

would/wouldn’t

+

verb.


If we had finished the reports on time, we wouldn't have to do them now.

If we had finished the reports in time, = the conditional clause

we wouldn't have to do them now. = the main clause (result clause)

If he hadn't missed the flight, he would be in Warsaw now.

If things had gone according to plan, we would have more resources at our disposal.

If you had chosen a different field or study, what would you be right now?


It is also possible to invert the clauses by putting the main clause before the conditional clause to add variety and also when we want to emphasise a certain part of the sentence.

So, we can also use the following structure:

Main Clause

Conditional Clause

Would/Wouldn’t

+

verb

+

If

+

Past Perfect.


*NOTE: When the main clause comes before the conditional clause, we do not use a comma before the conditional clause.

Compare the following examples with the sentences above:

We wouldn't have to do the reports now If we had finished them on time.

He would be in Warsaw now If he hadn't missed the flight.

We would have more resources at our disposal if things had gone according to plan.

What would you be right now if you had chosen a different field or study?


We can use modal verbs in the main clause instead of would / wouldn't.

- use might / may / could to show uncertainty.

If I had worked harder at school, I may have had a better job now.

- use could / could have been able to to talk about ability.

If he wasn't allergic to dogs, he could have babysat Sparky.

- use should when you want to talk about something that is advisable or probable.

If you knew I was free, you should have come over.



Present Condition with Past Result

In this usage, the we have a present condition (the conditional clause refers to the present) with a past result (the main clause, or result clause refers to the past). We use the Past Simple to show that the condition is in the present and would have + past participle ( would + Present Perfect Simple) in the main clause because the result is in the past.

Form

Conditional Clause

Main Clause

If

+

Past Simple,

+

would/wouldn’t have

+

past participle.


If she wasn't afraid of flying, she would have come with us.

If she wasn't afraid of flying, = the conditional clause

she would have come with us. = the main clause (result clause)

If he missed the bus, he would have been late for work.

If I was a good cook, I wouldn't have ordered take out for our guests.

If my English was better, I would have taken the job in the UK.


It is also possible to invert the clauses by putting the main clause before the conditional clause to add variety and also when we want to emphasise a certain part of the sentence.

So, we can also use the following structure:

Main Clause

Conditional Clause

Would/Would’t have

+

past participle

+

If

+

Past Simple.


*NOTE: When the main clause comes before the conditional clause, we do not use a comma before the conditional clause.

Compare the following examples with the sentences above:

She would have come with us if she wasn't afraid of flying.

He would have been late for work if he missed the bus.

I wouldn't have ordered take out for our guests if I was a good cook.

I would have taken the job in the UK if my English was better.


*NOTE: In spoken English, would and had is often contracted to 'd with the subject.

If I had seen the film, I would know what happened.

If I’d seen the film, I ’d know what happened.


When using the verb be in the if clause, use were for everyone.

If I were stronger, I'd have been able to lift that.

*NOTE: It is also possible to use was instead of were but it is more informal.

If I was stronger, I'd have been able to lift that.