I have been kind of confused about the following sentences. Would you please give me any hint or guide about them?

  1. If I had eaten breakfast this morning, I would not be hungry now.

    • Is this sentence correct? I suppose that since the main clause is “would not be” and has a present time marker (now), then the if clause should be simple past (conditional type 2). Am I wrong?
  2. If my brother would have been there, he would have known what to do.

    • Is this sentence correct? Which type of conditional is that?
  3. If it wasn’t X, it would have been something else

    • Is this sentence correct? Which type of conditional is that?
  • 1
    This dividing of conditionals into types I, II, III, is a great simplification. Sentence 1 is perfectly, grammatical, but should be classified as type IIIA (or something). These are the correct tenses when the conditional is in the past, but the main clause is in the present. – Peter Shor Sep 21 '13 at 13:04
  • What do you mean by type IIIA? What does A here stand for? – Amir Sep 21 '13 at 13:10
  • 3
    I meant that your sentence 1 is not a conditional of type I, II, or III, but is a perfectly grammatical conditional sentence of a structure that is reasonably common in English. So this division of conditionals into types I, II, and III is inadequate ... I just chose type IIIA (somewhat tongue in cheek) as an arbitrary name for a new class because it's really a variant of type III. – Peter Shor Sep 21 '13 at 17:39

The first sentence is an example of the Third Conditional. It means that the speaker has not eaten breakfast and (s)he is hungry now as a result.

The second sentence is ungrammatical, because the modal verb would does not normally occur in the if-clause in a conditional sentence. The grammatical form is ‘If my brother had been there, he would have known what to do’, and it, too, is an example of the Third Conditional.

As written, the third sentence might be possible, but it might better be expressed as ‘If it hadn’t been X, it would have been something else’, and it, too, would then be the Third Conditional. Alternatively, it could occur, with a different meaning, as ‘If it wasn’t X, it was something else’.

The categorisation of conditional sentences into First, Second and Third is a useful starting point, but, as Peter has said, it is a simplification. Other combinations of tenses are found in conditional sentences which can express, for example, promises and offers, or threats.

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  • The third sentence is fine; it's a mixed conditional (II + III). "If I was more diligent, I would've finished my degree at university. The meaning is: I am not a diligent person and because of this present condition I have never finished my degree." ecenglish.com/learnenglish/lessons/mixed-conditionals – Talia Ford Sep 21 '13 at 18:56
  • True, but it depends on the writer's or speaker's purpose. Context is all. – Barrie England Sep 21 '13 at 19:00
  • Yes, agreed. It would be wrong to say if this laboratory beaker wasn't made of glass, it would have been made of plastic. Edit: well, even that one can have a grammatical reading, heh... Yup, it's all about the context. – Talia Ford Sep 21 '13 at 19:03
  • If you would please explain why there is nothing wrong with this sentence, it would be greatly appreciated. :) – tchrist Sep 21 '13 at 19:27
  • 1
    There’s nothing wrong with it because it uses would in the if-clause as a courtesy. In my answer (to a non-native speaker, let us remember) I was careful to include the word normally in the first line of my second paragraph. – Barrie England Sep 21 '13 at 19:36

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