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I'm getting familiar with the third conditional, and there is a site where I read this:

It's used to describe a situation that didn't happen, and to imagine the result of this situation.

What if the situation happened, but I still want to indicate the conditional aspect of the situation?

For example: I made a backup, so I could have easily restored to a previous version if I had made a mistake.

What if I did restore to the backup? How should I say it then in a conditional way? Does it even make sense to force it?

  • "If anything goes wrong, I can always do a restore" OR "if anything goes wrong, I'll do a restore" I'm unsure of the wording with "restore" I would normally say "do a backup" but it doesn't make sense here (sorry, not a computer expert), but the point is that you use the so-called zero or first conditional tense. – Mari-Lou A May 11 '15 at 18:21
  • Thank you, @Mari-Lou. For statistical purposes, it would be useful to know in which educational system kupsef encountered the Four-on-the-Floor conditional system. It's certainly taught in Europe (but in all of Europe?), but it's probly common in other EFL traditions. – John Lawler May 11 '15 at 18:24
  • @JohnLawler What would you call the conditional constructions I mentioned? At this point, I'd be interested in knowing more conditional "tenses". Do they have "names"? – Mari-Lou A May 11 '15 at 18:40
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    They're just mostly-safe combinations of if..then clause types; they're not tenses and they don't cover every possibility. Linguists don't have names for the Zero-thru-N types you mentioned, and not for any others that some textbook writer might dream up, either. Generally there is a hypothetical clause of some sort and a conclusion clause of some sort; but there are hundreds of possible combinations, and they rarely have to do with tense -- too much depends on the type of condition and its results, which can vary all over the lot. – John Lawler May 11 '15 at 20:07
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    I'm from Hungary. I used to learn from a book called Headway. I don't know about the correct names, however if you search for "english conditional sentences" on google these names will pop up. – kupsef May 11 '15 at 20:38
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Like you said, the third conditional talks about a hypothetical past, and predicts a hypothetical consequence (that is no longer possible).

In your example, that would be:

If anything had gone wrong, I'd have restored from the backup.

If something did go wrong, like you ask, then the situation isn't hypothetical anymore, and the third conditional (or any conditional) is not needed. You can simply say:

Something went wrong, and I restored from the backup.

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This includes the restore actually happening and a bit about how it was conditional.

I restored to the backup, which I made in case anything went wrong.

A better way to think about conditionals is with the words will, would, and won't:

  • 1st Conditional - something will happen
  • 2nd Conditional - something would (or might) happen
  • 3rd Conditional - something won't happen

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