Past Unreal Conditional Exercises

Review and Examples

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The past unreal conditional form, also known as the third conditional or conditional 3, is used to express imagined situations that would have happened differently under other hypothetical circumstances. This conditional talks about a fictitious past, hence the term "unreal conditional", by altering one aspect of a scenario to change its outcome.

Teachers should use this guide for teaching conditionals to introduce and practice the first and second conditional forms before discussing the third conditional as it is one of the most difficult forms to learn. Once students are comfortable with the more simple first and second conditionals, you can teach the past unreal conditional as follows.

Past Unreal Conditional

Sentences in the third conditional contain two clauses: a main clause or "if" clause and a conditional independent clause or "would have" clause. The outcome of the conditional clause is determined by the occurrences of the main clause, but both clauses are grammatically independent of each other. Because of this, the order of the two clauses does not matter.

Within each independent clause of a past unreal conditional, there are past tense verbs that can either be positive or negative (depending on whether the situation expressed is something that would have or would not have happened under different circumstances). The "if" clause of a past unreal conditional sentence contains a past perfect verb and the "would have" clause contains a conditional perfect verb.

The two past unreal conditional sentence structures are:

  1. "If" + subject + past perfect verb + object[s], subject + conditional perfect verb + object[s].
  2. Subject + conditional perfect verb + object[s] + "if" + subject + past perfect verb + object[s].

The only difference between the two structures is the order of the clauses and the necessary comma before the second clause in sentences beginning with a "would have" expression.

The following example sentences show the past unreal conditional clause.

  • If he had finished his work on time, we would have been able to play another round of golf yesterday.
  • They could have had a better day if it hadn't rained the whole time they were at the beach.
  • If the meeting had been successful, we might have become partners with Smith and Co.
  • Jane would have agreed to marry Tom if he had asked her.

Past Unreal Conditional With Wish

The past unreal conditional is often used specifically to communicate an imagined, desirable result. More often than not, the scenario expressed in a past unreal conditional statement is preferable to reality. "Wish" (in the present tense) can be added to a sentence in the third conditional to express a more ideal result and past perfect verbs, again either positive or negative, accompany the subject of these sentences.

The past unreal conditional sentence structure with "wish" is: Subject + "wish[es]" + subject + past perfect verb + object[s].

Examples:

  • I wish I'd had more time to study when I was younger.
  • She wishes she had been promoted to CEO.
  • They wish that they had had the foresight to order their food sooner.

Worksheet 1

Conjugate the base verb in parentheses in the correct tense for the third conditional.

  1. If they _____ (have) the time, they would have attended the meeting.
  2. Jason _____ (recognize) the winner if he had been able to see them.
  3. If I _____ (know) his name, I would have said hello.
  4. If the president had been informed in time of the changes, he _____ (make) a different decision.
  5. If Mary _____ (try) again, she would have been successful.
  6. The children wouldn't have been so upset if they _____ (give, use passive voice) the candy.
  7. If Jerry _____ (spend) more money on the repair work, the car would have driven better.
  8. We _____ (believe) them if they had told us the whole story.
  9. She would have finished the report on time if she _____ (know) all the facts beforehand.
  10. We would not _____ (go) on vacation if we hadn't found that rental house for a great price.

Worksheet 2

Conjugate the base verb in parentheses in the correct tense for the third conditional.

  1. She _____ (wish) she had known about the problems.
  2. If they _____ (ask) the right questions, they _____ (receive) the right answers.
  3. She wouldn't have been allowed to speak if she _____ (disagree) with his point of view.
  4. I know they _____ (wish) they had thought twice before doing that.
  5. We wish we _____ (know) about those people.
  6. Alice wouldn't _____ (speak) to him if she had known what he was going to say.
  7. They wouldn't have taken her hard work for granted if she _____ (ask) them to help her prepare dinner.
  8. She wishes she _____ (apply) for the bank position when it was still open.
  9. If I _____ (invest) in Apple years ago, I would have become a millionaire!
  10. Oliver would _____ (know) the answer if you had asked him.

Worksheet 1 Answers

Conjugate the base verb in parentheses in the correct tense for the third conditional.

  1. If they had had the time, they would have attended the meeting.
  2. Jason would have recognized the winner if he had been able to see them.
  3. If I had known his name, I would have said hello.
  4. If the president had been informed in time of the changes, he would have made a different decision.
  5. If Mary had tried again, she would have been successful.
  6. The children wouldn't have been so upset if they had been given the candy.
  7. If Jerry had spent more money on the repair work, the car would have driven better.
  8. We would have believed them if they had told us the whole story.
  9. She would have finished the report on time if she had known all the facts beforehand.
  10. We would not have gone on vacation if we hadn't found that rental house for a great price.

Worksheet 2 Answers

Conjugate the base verb in parentheses in the correct tense for the third conditional.

  1. She wishes she had known about the problems.
  2. If they had asked the right questions, they would have received the right answers.
  3. She wouldn't have been allowed to speak if she had disagreed with his point of view.
  4. I know they wish they had thought twice before doing that.
  5. We wish we had known about those people.
  6. Alice wouldn't have spoken to him if she had known what he was going to say.
  7. They wouldn't have taken her hard work for granted if she had asked them to help her prepare dinner.
  8. She wishes she had applied for the bank position when it was still open.
  9. If I had invested in Apple years ago, I would have become a millionaire!
  10. Oliver would have known the answer if you had asked him.