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I learn that there are 3 types of conditional sentences:

  • Type 1 (present and possible): If I have money (and it's possible one day), I will donate.
  • Type 2 (present and impossible): If I had money now (but I don't), I would donate.
  • Type 3 (past and impossible): If I had had money (but I didn't), I would have donated.

What if I want to express something in the past that is possible, eg. If he had money before (and I don't know if he did, but it is possible), then he would donate?

  • I wasn't sure if type 2 can be past and impossible too, or just present and impossible. – Alex Apr 7 '16 at 6:06
  • With the "2nd conditional" we use the past tense to talk about present time, so your second sentence needs to be "If I had money now, I would donate". – Araucaria Apr 7 '16 at 8:47
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    If he had had money, he might have donated? – Edwin Ashworth Apr 7 '16 at 9:12
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No, it's not possible because when commenting on the past, the third conditional is required, so:

If he had had money, he would have made a donation. (But he didn't have money and he didn't make a donation.)

The second conditional refers to a theoretical present/future:

If he had money, he would make a donation. (But, as yet, he doesn't have money and he won't make a donation until he has money.)

  • Can there be a theoretical past? – Alex Apr 7 '16 at 6:07
  • When using a conditional to comment on the past, the opposite of what actually happened is stated in the conditional. It is, therefore, theoretical. For example: Reality: He was driving too fast and had an accident. The conditional imagines the opposite (so it is theoretical) : If he hadn't been driving so fast, he wouldn't have had an accident. – Cathy Gartaganis Apr 7 '16 at 6:25
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There aren't really three types of conditional. There are just three main types of pattern that are taught to learners because they are very common. The "1st" is taught so that we learn to not use will in the if-clause. The "2nd" is taught to help us learn to use the past tense to talk about the future. The "3rd" is taught to help us learn to use the past perfect when in other situations we would just use the past simple. But there are many, many other patterns we could have.

We can, of course, just use past tenses to talk about past possibilities that we may believe actually happened. In your example, it would be very odd to use this with a first person I, because of course you normally know what you have done. Here is an example with third person she:

If she had any money, she donated it.

Notice that there is no modal verb there in the main clause.

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