Mixed conditionals can be confusing at first, but it is simpler to see them as a mixture of the second and third conditional. As we have established, all conditionals have a condition and a result. To understand mixed conditionals, you need to know which is which.
Condition: What it depends on
We usually use words like if/when/unless/as long as/provided that/providing that
If I had arrived on time,…..
Unless I worked harder,…..
Result: What happens
We almost always use a modal verb such as would/could/might/should
I would get a good grade…
I might make more progress…
All conditionals have a condition “If I have time,…” and a result “… I will do some exercise”. But these conditions can be both present or past. What a mixed conditional does is mix the 2nd and 3rd conditional to express this.
Study these examples:
If I had a mobile phone, I would have called you last week. The meaning of this sentence is simple. I didn´t call you last week because I don´t have a mobile phone at the moment.
The condition: “If I had a mobile phone” is in the present so we use the 2nd conditional whereas the the result “I would have called you” is in the past so we use the 3rd conditional.
If I had studied more at university, I would earn more money now. The meaning of this sentence is that I was a bad student and I didn´t study in the past and now I earn little money.
The Condition Is in the past “If I had studied more” so we use the 3rd conditional but the result “I would earn more money” is in the present so we use the 2nd conditional.
Practice speaking questions with mixed conditionals:
- Would you be more popular if you had been good at sports as a teenager?
- If you had studied more at university, would you have a better salary?
- If you had been born in Japan, what do you think you would do for a living now?
- Might you live abroad if you had studied languages at high school?
- If you had met the love of your life at 18, would you have got married at a young age?