MIXED CONDITIONAL SENTENCES

It is possible for the two parts of a conditional sentence to refer to different times, and the resulting sentence is a "mixed conditional" sentence. There are two types of mixed conditional sentence:

A. Present result of past condition:

1. Form

The tense in the 'if' clause is the past perfect, and the tense in the main clause is the present conditional:

'IF' CLAUSE MAIN CLAUSE

If + past perfect
If I had worked harder at school
If we had looked at the map

Present conditional
I would have a better job now.
we wouldn't be lost.


2. Function

In these sentences, the time is past in the 'if' clause, and present in the main clause. They refer to an unreal past condition and its probable result in the present. They express a situation which is contrary to reality both in the past and in the present:
'If I had worked harder at school' is contrary to past fact - I didn't work hard at school, and 'I would have a better job now' is contrary to present fact - I haven't got a good job.
If we had looked at the map (we didn't), we wouldn't be lost (we are lost).

Examples

  • I would be a millionaire now if I had taken that job.
  • If you'd caught that plane you'd be dead now.
  • If you hadn't spent all your money on CDs, you wouldn't be broke.

B. Past result of present or continuing condition.

1. Form

The tense in the If-clause is the simple past, and the tense in the main clause is the perfect conditional:

'IF' CLAUSE MAIN CLAUSE

If + simple past
If I wasn't afraid of spiders
If we didn't trust him

Perfect conditional
I would have picked it up.
we would have sacked him months ago.


2. Function

In these sentences the time in the If-clause is now or always, and the time in the main clause is before now. They refer to an unreal present situation and its probable (but unreal) past result:

  • 'If I wasn't afraid of spiders' is contrary to present reality - I am afraid of spiders, and 'I would have picked it up' is contrary to past reality - I didn't pick it up.
  • 'If we didn't trust him' is contrary to present reality - we do trust him, and 'we would have sacked him' is contrary to past reality - we haven't sacked him.

Examples

a. If she wasn't afraid of flying she wouldn't have travelled by boat.
b. I'd have been able to translate the letter if my Italian was better.
c. If I was a good cook, I'd have invited them to lunch.
d. If the elephant wasn't in love with the mouse, she'd have trodden on him by now.










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