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Today while speaking to a colleague of mine I said "Had you studied well, you would have cleared the exam ". I was rebuked for not using the third conditional correctly. I was told that the correct way to express this is " if you had studied well, you would have cleared the exam".

My question here is can I not use the third conditional without an "if". Even if i say had u studied well, it means the same thing.

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    What you said was fine. It's just another way of expressing that conditional. You can even tell your colleague that your way is slightly more up-register than his. – Robusto Jun 12 '15 at 18:26
  • Certainly is. Even more up-register perhaps: "Were you to have studied well ..." (for the next occasion?). Or even more so: "Would that you had studied well, for you would have cleared..." : - ) – Margana Jun 12 '15 at 20:47
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Yes, your way is also correct. You can invert the conditional clause and omit the if as you did.

  • Thanks Dusty. Is there a study material based on this for my reference. That way i will be able to share it with my teacher too. – Utkarsha Tiwari Jun 12 '15 at 18:36
  • @UtkarshaTiwari, Check this - bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/… – Misti Jun 12 '15 at 19:23
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    @UtkarshaTiwari A quick google didn't turn up much in the way of authoratative sources, but there's this: grammaring.com/conditionals-and-inversion and this from wikipedia (itself unsourced): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… (i – Dusty Jun 12 '15 at 19:23
  • *authoritative. That's going to annoy me... – Dusty Jun 12 '15 at 19:37
  • Dusty, don't allow it to annoy---copy, delete original, then repost edited comment. Alternatively, copy and paste into your answer to add support for an answer that is currently unsupported and might be construed as mere opinion. :- ) – user98990 Jun 12 '15 at 20:12
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Your version is grammatically correct; it is in a more formal register than the structure in which you use the word if.

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