What are Mixed Conditionals and what are they used for?

Updated: Mar 22


What are Mixed Conditionals?

Mixed conditionals are sentences in which the condition and result clause refer to different times. In the present to past conditional (1) the condition is in the present and the result in the past; in the past to present conditional (2) the condition is in the past and the result is in the present. The condition bit is where we imagine something, either in the present or past, like this:


1. Present to past conditional sentence


Biden is a president, and the world didn't come to an end.


2. Past to present conditional sentence


He won, and we are not in trouble. Not as big as we could have been, at least.


This is what makes mixed conditionals different from the four conditional sentences you probably know from school: the zero, first, second and third conditional, where the condition and result refer to the same time.


Mixed conditionals are not used as frequently as conditional sentences type 0 – 3. You can rather think of them as the cherry on top; they refine our message and add that extra detail to what we’re saying. Needless to say, you should only worry about them if you're an advanced learner.


How to make a mixed conditional sentence?


Get your ingredients right!

Before we start mixing things, we need to know the property of our ingredients so that we know what we're doing. This means we need to recap on are two main ingredients for today: the second and third conditional.


The Second Conditional

It's about the present condition and present result. We use it to imagine what things would be like in the present if something happened (in red).

Condition in the present

PAST SIMPLE

Result in the present

WOULD + INFINITIVE

If I won the lottery,

I would buy a big house.

I’m imagining winning the lottery in the present.


The Third Conditional

It's about the past condition and past results. We use it to imagine what things would have been if something else had happened in the past (in green).

Condition in the past

PAST PERFECT

Result in the past

WOULD + HAVE + PAST PARTICIPLE

If I had won the lottery yesterday,

I would have bought a big house.

I’m imagining winning the lottery in the past.


How to mix conditionals?

Now, to make a present to past mixed conditional sentence, I’m going to take the condition from the second conditional and the result from the third. To make a past to present mixed conditional sentence, I’m going to do the contrary - I’m going to take the condition from the third conditional and the result from the second, like this:

Conditional

Condition

Result

Present to Past

PAST SIMPLE

(Second Conditional)

WOULD + HAVE + PAST PARTICIPLE

(Third Conditional)

Past to Present

PAST PERFECT

(Third Conditional)

WOULD + INFINITIVE

(Second Conditional)




Other examples


Present to Past Mixed Conditional

Condition in the present

PAST SIMPLE

Result in the past

WOULD + HAVE + PAST PARTICIPLE

If I didn’t like him,

I wouldn’t have hired him.

I like him - I always have - and that’s the reason why I hired him in the past.





Past to Present Mixed Conditional

Condition in the past

PAST PERFECT

Result in the present

WOULD + INFINITIVE

If I hadn’t eaten so much,

I would be so sick.

I ate a lot in the past and as a result, now I’m really sick.






It’s that simple - you just need to remember the grammar and what comes with it and bob's your uncle.



Now try to make some mixed conditional sentences and write them in the comments below.



Also, I give PRIVATE ONLINE LESSONS, so you can book yourself a lesson (subject to availability), and I'll be more than happy to help you master your conditionals and much more.





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