Mixed Conditionals | English Grammar | Examples & Practice

Lesson Overview

Lesson Summary 

Do you know much about MIXED conditionals? Find out how to use this interesting English grammar & practise with me! Watch though and complete the QUIZ with me at the end!

Video Transcript
Section 1
Hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! I’ve been talking about conditionals a lot lately and this video is no exception but this one is one of the most interesting of all because we’re going to be talking about mixed conditional sentences.

Mixed conditionals are exactly what they sound like, a conditional sentence that mixes two different times in one sentence. That sounds a little tricky but I’m here to go over it with you and to help you practise with me later on in this lesson so don’t worry.

If you had learned how to use mixed conditionals already, you wouldn’t need to watch this lesson.

Check it out. That is a mixed conditional sentence and by the end of this video, you’ll be feeling much more confident about using mixed conditionals as you speak in English. So let’s go!

If you’ve watched some of my previous lessons or perhaps you’ve studied conditionals at school, well you’ll know that the zero conditional is used to talk about facts and things that are generally true.

The first conditional talks about a likely present situation.
The second conditional talks about hypothetical or highly unlikely present or future situations.
And the third conditional is a past situation which didn’t happen.

So these are all useful for talking about situations that relate to actions in isolation in their own time.

So the third conditional relates to the past but mixed conditionals help you to move through time so a past action with a present result. Gets exciting!

As I mentioned earlier, a key idea when we use mixed conditionals is time. But don’t confuse time with verb tense. So, of course, we use different verb tenses to express different times, that’s true but time and tense are not always the same thing.

So if you take a look at a couple of sentences.

  • I had a dog when I was a child.
  • She was cleaning all day yesterday.

So are these two sentences using the same verb tense?

This is the past simple and this one is the past continuous. They’re not using the same tense but they are referring to the same time, right? They both take place in the past so they have the same time reference.

And like I said earlier, mixed conditionals are conditional sentences that use two different times in them. They help us to move between two times. So the ‘if’ clause and the main clause in a mixed conditional sentence have different times that work together.

So we take a look at an example.

  • If I had woken up earlier, I wouldn’t have missed the bus.

So both these clauses take place in the past, right? I’m talking about this morning, yesterday morning or some other morning in the past and the result, that I missed the bus, also happened in the past. So I already missed the bus, I can’t change that now.

So let’s change this sentence a little to make it a mixed conditional. To do that, we need one of the clauses to be in a different time.

So our ‘if’ clause is happening in the past, right? So let’s make our main clause about the present.

  • If I had woken up earlier, I would be at work already.

I wouldn’t have missed the bus so I would be at work already now, in the present.

So now we’ve got a mixed conditional sentence. One clause refers to a past action and the other refers to the present. See? It’s not as hard as you think once you break it down but it takes practice so let’s keep going!

There are a few different ways that we can do this. You can mix and match several tenses and times together to make them a mixed conditional sentence. But I want to focus on the two most common combinations right?

So a past action and a present result which is just the example that we just looked at and then a present condition and a past result. So remember in both of these sentences we’re talking about something that’s unreal.

In the first, we’re talking about changing a past action and the hypothetical present result that would happen but it can’t happen because we can’t change the past, right?

And in the second, we imagine that the present were different. Now it’s not but if it were then how would the past hypothetically have been different as a result?

It’s a little confusing I know. Let’s keep going.

past action > present result

So to create the first one we need the past perfect in the ‘if’ clause and the present conditional in the main clause. So if this thing had happened, then that thing would happen.

  • If I had saved more money, I would own this house.
  • If you hadn’t taken that job, we would be travelling together.
  • If they had paid more attention, they wouldn’t be failing in class.

And don’t forget that like all conditionals, you can change the order of the ‘if’ clause and the main clause.

This thing would happen if this thing had happened.

So you can swap the order of the clauses but all of the information is still there.

  • I would own this house, if I had saved more money.

We still have a hypothetical past action in the ‘if’ clause and the hypothetical present result in the main clause.

present condition > past result

The other common mixed conditional sentence is a present condition and a past result. So this is an unreal present condition to imagine what the result would have been in the past but we’ll never really know because this is imaginary, right?

So imagine if this thing happened then this would have happened.

Now all right let’s talk about this for a minute because we’re talking about a present condition right but we’re using the past simple tense in the ‘if’ clause but that’s not a real past right. This is how we use the second conditional to express a hypothetical present situation.

  • If I were more outgoing, I would have introduced myself.
  • If he wasn’t injured, he would have played the game.
  • If I wasn’t so busy, I would have offered to help.

future action > past result

Now you can also use this same general form to talk about a future action and a hypothetical past result.

Now this is pretty advanced but you’ll see how it can be a useful way of expressing yourself.

Just imagine that tomorrow you had a really important meeting at work. A meeting that you’ve planned and you’ve organised and set it up for the future. So you can’t go out dancing tonight, obviously because you want to be well rested and alert for this meeting. Your boss is gonna be there.

  • If I didn’t have an important meeting tomorrow, I would have gone out dancing.
  • If she wasn’t going on holiday next month, she would have asked for a day off.
  • If you weren’t going on a big hike tomorrow, would you have come on a bike ride today?

So how are you feeling about mixed conditionals now? I always think that it’s easier if you focus less on the complicated grammar tenses and more on the relationships with time.

And the three most commonly used mixed conditional sentences are simply:
– a past action with a present result
– a present condition with a past result
– a future action and the past result

So now that you know all of this, I think it’s time that we practise a little together. So are you ready to put everything that we’ve just been through into practice with a mini quiz?

Good, I knew that you were. Let’s do it!

Practice Quiz

So I’m gonna start by giving you a few ‘if’ clauses in the past and I want you to write your own present results. So this is where you’ve got to be creative, come up with your answers and add them into the comments below.

So for example. If I had got on that plane…

This is obviously in the past right so to make it a mixed conditional, we need to bring the results into the present in the main clause. So all you have to do is imagine what you would be doing now.

This is the imaginary present right.

If you have gotten on that plane… you could say “I would be in Fiji right now” or “I’d be sipping champagne and watching movies” or “I’d be stuck on a fourteen hour long-haul flight”

Whatever – that’s the fun of an imaginary situation. So now it’s your turn.

1. If I had won the lottery…
2. If she had picked up the phone…
3. If he hadn’t quit his job…

So right now I want you to pause the video and finish these sentences.

Now I’m gonna prompt you with a present ‘if’ clause so that means that your main clause needs to be something different in the past.

Now just be careful that you make sure your main clause is in the past so you could correctly write a different time but then it wouldn’t be a mixed conditional, right?

4. If I were more athletic…
5. If she wasn’t so tired…
6. If I was fluent in English…

So again pause the video and finish these sentences.

Awesome work! Now the last category and you can probably guess where I’m gonna go with this. I’m gonna prompt you with a future ‘if’ clause and you can finish the sentence with a past result in the main clause.

7. If tomorrow wasn’t Monday…
8. If she didn’t have an important exam next week…
9. If I wasn’t moving next month…

Again, pause, take your time, to write your sentences out, add them into the comments below so I can check them.

Grammar lessons like this one can sometimes leave you feeling like your brain has turned to mush. But don’t let these types of sentences scare you, just accept that this is gonna take some time to really understand these sentences how to use them.

Play around with them a little, keep the time and the tenses in mind. Just keep coming back to this lesson and all the conditional videos that I’ve made for you just to review and remind yourself about the difference in how to use them.

And look for these structures. If you’re reading a book, highlight the conditional sentences that you come across and just pause, think about them for a moment, try to understand how the two clauses relate to each other.

If you’ve got any questions at all, then make sure you ask me down in the comments. Share your sentences down there. I always try to give as much feedback as I can and I really hope that this lesson was helpful for you. In fact, if you’ve got a friend or you know someone who would also benefit from watching it, then make sure you share it with them, be a good friend.

Subscribe to mmmEnglish if you haven’t already and I will see you in the next lesson ready and waiting for you right now. Let’s do it!

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