Mixed Conditional

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.

Present result of a past condition

Form

In this type of mixed conditional sentence, the tense in the 'if' clause is the past perfect, and the tense in the main clause is the present conditional.

If clause (condition) Main clause (result)
If + past perfect present conditional
If this thing had happened that thing would happen.

As in all conditional sentences, the order of the clauses is not fixed. You may have to rearrange the pronouns and adjust punctuation when you change the order of the clauses, but the meaning is identical.

Examples
  • If I had worked harder at school, I would have a better job now.
  • I would have a better job now if I had worked harder at school.
  • If we had looked at the map we wouldn't be lost.
  • We wouldn't be lost if we had looked at the map.
  • If you had caught that plane you would be dead now.
  • You would be dead now if you had caught that plane.
Function

This type of mixed conditional refers to an unreal past condition and its probable result in the present. These sentences express a situation which is contrary to reality both in the past and in the present. In these mixed conditional sentences, the time is the past in the "if" clause and in the present in the main clause.

Examples
  • If I had studied I would have my driving license. (but I didn't study and now I don't have my license)
  • I would be a millionaire now if I had taken that job. (but I didn't take the job and I'm not a millionaire)
  • If you had spent all your money, you wouldn't buy this jacket. (but you didn't spend all your money and now you can buy this jacket)

In these mixed conditional sentences, you can also use modals in the main clause instead of would to express the degree of certainty, permission, or a recommendation about the outcome.

Examples
  • If you had crashed the car, you might be in trouble.
  • I could be a millionaire now if I had invested in ABC Plumbing.
  • If I had learned to ski, I might be on the slopes right now.

Past result of present or continuing condition

Form

In this second type of mixed conditional sentence, the tense in the 'if' clause is the simple past, and the tense in the main clause is the perfect conditional.

If clause (condition) Main clause (result)
If + simple past perfect conditional
If this thing happened that thing would have happened.

As in all conditional sentences, the order of the clauses is not fixed. You may have to rearrange the pronouns and adjust punctuation when you change the order of the clauses, but the meaning is identical.

Examples
  • If I wasn't afraid of spiders, I would have picked it up.
  • I would have picked it up if I wasn't afraid of spiders.
  • If we didn't trust him we would have sacked him months ago.
  • We would have sacked him months ago if we didn't trust him.
  • If I wasn't in the middle of another meeting, I would have been happy to help you.
  • I would have been happy to help you if I wasn't in the middle of another meeting.
Function

These mixed conditional sentences refer to an unreal present situation and its probable (but unreal) pas result. In these mixed conditional sentences, the time in the if clause is now or always and the time in the main clause is before now. For example, "If I wasn't afraid of spiders" is contrary to present reality. I am afraid of spiders. "I would have picked it up" is contrary to past reality. I didn't pick it up.

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