Second conditional vs third conditional

Hello everybody
Could anybody tell me the difference between using the imaginary situations in the second conditional if as well as the third conditional if?

Nola

  1. First conditional: If I have enough money, I will go to Ireland.
  2. Second conditional: If I had enough money, I would go to Ireland.
  3. Third conditional: If I had had enough money, I would have gone to Ireland.

BTW, “the imaginary situations” should be expressed as “the subjunctive (mood, clause, etc)”.

Thank you so much for your reply but i am afraid i didn’t meant that. I know the difference between all the conditional types well but the confusion is in some examples in the second and the third conditional.

  • If I were a bird, I would fly. (Second conditional and also it seems to be a wish)
    The previous example is an imaginary situation but what i know is that we usually use the imaginary situations with the third conditional for example:
  • If I had been a bird, I would have flown. (Can I use the third conditional in such a situation? and if so, then what’s the difference between them?)

Nola

hi

the 3rd conditional usually somehow relates to life/reality in the past. So maybe change the sentence to;

If I had been a bird in my previous life, I would have flown far and wide.

Hi Stew
Here in this part I’d like to ask about using wishes as well as using conditionals, for example,
** I wish the test was easy to pass it. (A wish for the present)
Does that sentence equals (If the test is easy, I will pass it.)?

Another example,
** I wish the test had been east to pass it. (A wish for the past)
Does that sentence equals (If the test was easy, I would pass it.)?
or (If the test had been easy, I would have passed it.)?
or both of them are correct?
I would be satisfied if I found an answer to my question.

Thank you
Nola

Hi Nola

Here is my two cents:

“I wish the test was easy to pass” tells you that the reality is this:
“The test isn’t easy (and it won’t be easy to pass it).”

“I wish the test had been easy to pass.” tells you that the reality is this:
“The test wasn’t easy to pass.”
The ‘wish’ sentence doesn’t actually say whether you passed the test or not.

Hope that helps.
.
.

Hi Amy
Thank you for your explanation but the same question is in using (if as well as wish) as in the previous examples.
** I wish the test had been east to pass it. (A wish for the past)
Does that sentence equals (If the test was easy, I would pass it.)?
or (If the test had been easy, I would have passed it.)?
or both of them are correct?
Thank you for everything.
Nola

Hi Nola

No, the ‘wish’ sentence refers to the past, but your Type 2 IF sentence doesn’t.

Part of the problem with trying to change “I wish the test had been easy to pass” to your Type 3 ‘IF’ sentence is that the ‘wish’ sentence does not tell us whether or not you passed the test. However, to me it is closer in meaning because it refers to a test that was taken in the past.
.

Many great thanks Amy. Now I got it.
Nola

The same question came up my mind while passing one of the tests related to Past Participle sentences. Say we have the following questions:
“I would take pictures of my trip, if I had a camera.”
“I would have taken pictures of my trip, if I had had a camera.”
in Conditional second and Conditional third respectively. So is there any difference in meaning of this two? What’s the point in using one and not another in the situation when I had a trip and I’d forgotten/ had no camera? I mean what’s the criteria to choose between them?

Hi All

We need to consider why we use the 2nd or 3rd conditional.

First 2nd Cond - e.g. I would take pictures of my trip, if I had a camera.

  1. Do you have a camera? No
  2. Do you want to take pictures right now? Yes.

Thus this is a wish for the present and it tells you about a future action. If you´re still on the trip, then you will probably use this conditional

3rd Cond. - e.g. I would have taken pictures of my trip, if I had had a camera.

This is (usually) telling you that the trip has finished. You can´t take pictures of your trip now - it´s too late, even if someone gives you a camera.

Thus, 3rd conditionals are used to explain our hypothetical responses in the past. They are an alternative reality in the past.

One more point. If you´re still on the 2 week trip, but you have regrets about the previous week, for example, then you could say “I would have taken pictures of this trip if I hadn´t forgotten my camera”.

The crucial difference here is that with 2nd, you´re looking forward, but with 3rd, you´re looking back.
Perhaps optimists use 2nd whereas pessimists use 3rd?!

Many thanks for your reply Mingli, it sort of summed up all thoughts I had on this issue.
So, regarding your last mentioned point, is it fair to say that you shouldn’t use 2-nd Cond. in case you had forgotten the camera as there is no room to be optimistic :)? So as I got it, an option: I would take shots of this trip if I didn’t forget my camera makes little sense because given situation can’t imply any future action as I won’t have a device to shoot with.

.Hi TwOnex,

You’re right that ‘I would take shots of this trip if I didn’t forget my camera’ doesn’t make sense, but not quite for the reason you mention. In this case, a so-called “mixed conditional” is what you need:

  • I would take shots of this trip if I hadn’t forgotten my camera.

In the mixed conditional above, the IF-clause is the condition, and it refers to the unreal/counter-factual past. However, the first part of the sentence refers to the unreal present/future - i.e. the time reference is ‘during this current trip’. The condition in the IF-clause has to be fulfilled in order for the activity in the other half of the sentence to take place. In this case, it is impossible for the condition to be fulfilled, therefore the present/future activity mentioned in first half of the sentence is only theoretical. It can’t happen because it is impossible to change a past act. In this mixed conditional sentence, the act of forgetting to bring the camera has already taken place. However, ‘this trip’ is not yet finished, so that is still in the present and future.

Thus, the sentence above is a mix of a type 2 conditional (first half), and a type 3 conditional (second half).


If you change the wording of the sentence to the following, then a standard type 2 conditional works perfectly:

- [i]I [b]would take[/b] shots of this trip if I [b]had[/b] a camera to use.[/i]

The reason that 'had' works in the sentence above is that we are now referring to an [u]unreal current[/u] [b]state[/b], and NOT to an [u]unreal/counter-factual past[/u] [b]act[/b]. Thus, both halves of the sentence have a present/future time reference.

We can also write a standard type 3 conditional. In this case, both halves of the sentence refer to the unreal/counter-factual past:

  • I would have taken shots of that trip if I hadn’t forgotten my camera.

These are the past facts:

  • I did not take any shots of that trip
  • (because) I forgot my camera.

[color=darkblue]_______________________________________________________
[size=75]“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.” ~ Orson Welles[/size]

Hiya TwOnex,

Esl_Expert says it better than I can. As teachers, we often tend to shy away from mixed conditionals (at lower levels anyway) lest they confuse students.

Another example of a mixed conditional :

“If I had failed that exam, I wouldn’t have this job”.

The first part is 3rd, the second is 2nd. We use a mixed conditional in this case because something that you did / didn’t do in the past has an effect in the present.

Regards.
Mingli