Regrets and How to Use the 3rd Conditional in English

When you read this blog, you improve your English. In fact, if you read this blog every week, you will improve even more!

Do you recognize a pattern with the above two sentences? If you said they were both real conditional sentences, then you are absolutely right! However, there is a key difference in the 2 sentences. The first is about the present and is called the zero conditional, and the second sentence is about the future and called the first conditional

That was just a quick overview of the real conditional sentences, but it’s not our focus for today. Today we’re focusing on the 3rd conditional in English, also known as conditional III or the past unreal conditional tense.

Looking for more about the REAL conditionals? Click here.

We’ll start by reviewing this week’s Everyday English lesson from YouTube. When you finish watching the video, or if you just feel like reading today, then below are the lesson notes.

Regrets and How to Use the 3rd Conditional

First things first, what is a regret?

A regret is when you feel upset (sad or angry) about something you did or didn’t do in the past.

Next, what is the structure of the 3rd conditional?

We have 2 clauses, the IF clause and the RESULT clause. The IF clause uses the past perfect, and the result clause uses the modals ‘would’, ‘could’, or ‘might’ + have + past participle.

Let’s look at some examples:

If I had gone to bed earlier, I wouldn’t have slept in and missed the test.

He could have done better if he had studied harder.

If she had called them before, she might have been able to go with them.

*Notice, the IF clause can go in the beginning or at the end, you just need to separate the 2 with a comma if it comes at the beginning!

Finally, how do we use it?

When we want to express a regret, something we wish would have been or gone differently in the past – we can use the 3rd conditional.

I didn’t tell my friend goodbye before she moved away because we were fighting. If I had said goodbye, we might have fixed our friendship.

When we want to talk about alternative situations, or how things could or might have been different – we can use the 3rd conditional.

I went to Fiji for my vacation and spent time on the beach, but maybe snow skiing would have been better. If I had gone to Northern Canada, I could have tried snowboarding and skiing.

We can also use a wish clause to express regret, and use the same form as the 3rd conditional.

I wish I had said goodbye to my friend. I wish I had gone to Canada.


Practice Makes Perfect

The conditionals can be a difficult tense to learn if you don’t practice, practice, practice! So today, there are 2 ways that you can practice:

  1. Think about 5 things that you regret. Write about them in the past perfect ((use my examples above to guide you))
  2. Join me and my teacher friend Adriana for our live grammar training all about grammar (including the conditionals!) on April 20!

Click this image below to sign up and learn more grammar!


I hope you enjoyed this Everyday English lesson, and I look forward to sharing even more grammar with you in this Thursday’s live training.

Until next time,

Happy Studying! ♥

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1 Comment

  1. asem on December 1, 2022 at 8:48 am

    you explain well, I also want to know English to such a level!

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