If you’re looking for some third conditional ESL games or activities, along with lesson plans, worksheets, and online practice opportunities, then you’re definitely in the right place. Keep on reading for everything you need to teach the 3rd conditional!
What is the Third Conditional with Examples?
The third conditional is used to express situations in the past. It talks about the past consequence of an unrealistic action or situation. Some examples:
- I wouldn’t have been late to work if the power hadn’t gone out.
- If she has studied harder, she would have passed that course.
- He would have gotten the job if he hadn’t been so nervous during the interview.
- If you hadn’t invited me over for dinner, I would have stayed in bed all day.
Here’s the structure:
If + past perfect +would/wouldn’t have + past participle.
It’s also possible to invert the clauses, with “if” in the middle of the sentences.
Looking for more details about teaching conditionals? Have a look here: First Conditional Activities.
Third Conditional Activities
Let’s get into the best ESL activities and games for teaching the third conditional.
#1: Third Conditional Concentration
Try out this fun game for students who are just getting started with third conditionals that focuses on meanings. Make up a bunch of cards with third conditionals but separate the clauses. For example:
- If I had studied harder/I would have gotten into law school
- If you had brought your umbrella/ You wouldn’t have gotten wet
- I would have believed you /If you hadn’t lied to me before
Then, it’s a fun memory game that students can play in small groups. Check it out:
#2: Dicto Gloss
Try out this challenging listening activity with your higher-level students. Find, or write a passage that contains some instances of third conditional use.
Then, put students into pairs and read it out at a faster than normal pace. They have to take notes and then compare what they have with their partners. Read it out again and students do the same thing. In the end, they can compare what they have with the original version. Check it out:
#3: Conversation Starters for the Third Conditional
If you tell students to talk to a partner using the third conditional, you may be met with silence. There just isn’t enough structure. Instead, I love to give my students some conversation starters. For example:
- If I had gone on holiday last week, . . .
- If I hadn’t gone to bed last night, . . .
- If I had met an alien on the way to class today, . . .
#4: Third Conditional Videos
I love to use videos in the classroom whenever possible to generate interest in a topic or to teach grammar or vocabulary. There are two main ways that I do this.
Do you ever get the feeling that students get tired of hearing us talk? If you suspect this to be the case, then let another teacher take a turn. You can find lots of videos that do a great job of explaining the third conditional.
The second way I use videos in the ESL classroom is to generate interest in a topic. There are lots of videos with examples of the third conditional in movies and TV shows. Just have a look on YouTube and you’re sure to find something that’ll work for your students.
#5: Error Correction Relay Race
There are so, so many errors that students can make with third conditional forms. That’s why I love to use this relay race. It turns something familiar and kind of boring (error correction) into something way more interesting because it’s a game that requires some serious teamwork. Find out more about it:
#6: Use an ESL Speaking Lesson
It’s easy to plan your own speaking lesson for just about any topic, including this one. Check out the simple steps to follow here:
#7: Mixed Up 3rd Conditional Sentences
This is a nice activity to help students with the structure of a third conditional sentence. Make up a bunch of sentences with the target grammar. Then put students into pairs. They have to work together to unscramble the sentences. Find out more about it:
#8: Use Concept Checking Questions (CCQs)
The meaning of the third conditional can be a little bit tricky. That’s why I like to use CCQs to make sure that my students really understand. They are simple questions that focus on the meaning in this instance. You could also use them to focus briefly on form as well. Some examples:
- Do we use this to talk about the past present or future?
- Where can we find the “if” in the sentence?
- Do we use this to talk about things that actually happened?
#9: The Big Decision
Students think of a big decision that they made in their life. Then, they can share with a partner what this decision was and then together, they can think of some alternative outcomes, using the third conditional. Here’s my personal example.
Big decision: Going to South Korea to teach English
Alternatives: If I hadn’t gone to South Korea to teach English.
- I would have gotten a job in Canada.
- I would have been bored with my life in Canada and gone to South Korea later.
- I might never have been a teacher.
- I might have gotten married and had children.
- I would have spent more time with my family.
- I wouldn’t have travelled to so many countries.
Then, students can work on the other big decision and some alternative outcomes.
#10: Third Conditional Round Robin Story
Have some fun with writing and the third conditional! It’s possible for students to do this in small groups, or you can do it with the entire class. Start off the story with a third conditional clause. For example:
- If she had gone on that date,
- If they hadn’t drank so much the night before,
- He would have been on time for the interview if. . .
Then, students have to work together to put together the rest of the story. Find out more here:
#11: Running Dictation
Find, or write a conversation between two people with some instances of the 3rd conditional. Then, students have to work together to dictate it onto paper. When that’s done, they have to put the conversation into the correct order to make it coherent. Find out more about this 4-skills ESL activity here:
#12: Is that Sentence Correct
This is a simple activity that can focus on both forms and meanings. Write a bunch of sentences, some with errors and some without. Students have to work with a partner to decide if the sentence is correct. If it’s not, they have to make the required changes. Check it out here:
#13: Who Is It?
Give students some sentence starters that use the third conditional. For example:
- If I had been famous, . . .
- If I wasn’t studying English here today, . . .
Then, collect the papers and read some of the answers. Students have to guess who made the statement. I’m explicit about the fact that I will share the answers so that students won’t write anything too private or personal that they don’t want the class to know.
#14: Dictation Practice
I love to use dictation to focus on forms, as well as punctuation and spelling. Writing it down on a piece of paper is a nice way to see who actually understands and who doesn’t. This is particularly true with the 3rd conditional which can have lots of contractions.
To amp up the difficulty, say the first half of the clause and students have to write it down. Then, they can finish the sentence however they wish. For example:
- If you had driven more carefully . . .
- She wouldn’t have been so tired if . . .
- If it hadn’t had snowed . . .
This activity can also be useful for something like sequence words.
#15: Use an ESL Reading Lesson
It’s easier than you might think to make a lesson plan for almost anything. It’s easy to find to write a passage that contains lots of third conditionals. Then, design a lesson around that and Bob’s your uncle! Find out the simple steps to follow:
#16: Third Conditional Vocabulary Auction
This just might be the most fun students can have while making sentences! Check it out:
#17: Sentence Structure Activities
The form for the third conditional can be a little bit tricky for students. They are usually not that confident in things like the past participle and the past perfect, along with the various contractions that are possible. Plus, you can invert the clauses! All of these things can make it a difficult one to master.
That’s why I love to work on sentence structure for the 3rd conditional with my students. Here are some of my favourite ideas:
#18: Guess the Clause
In this activity, students write half of a third conditional clause. Then, they tell their partner what it is. Their partner has to guess what the other part of the sentence is and the other person can give hints if they are way off base.
#19: Proof Reading and Editing
Proof reading and editing are some of those boring but necessary writing skills. The 3rd conditional is a nice unit to teach some basic editing skills because there are a ton of mistakes students can make with the form. Here are some tips and tricks for teaching these skills:
#20: Use an ESL Listening Lesson for the Third Conditional
It’s possible to plan your own ESL listening lesson when teaching the 3rd conditional. It’s easier than you might think, honestly. Have a look here:
#21: True or False
Students make a statement using a third conditional that could be true or false. For example,
If I had eaten lunch, I wouldn’t be so hungry now.
The other students in the class or group have to guess whether it’s true or false.
#22: My Regret
Students think of a regret that they have about their past. For example:
- If I wasn’t such a jerk, my girlfriend in university wouldn’t have dumped me.
Their partner or other members in the group try to ease their regret by thinking of even worse things.
- Don’t worry, she may have ended up being a criminal.
- It’s okay. You’ll probably find someone way better.
Third Conditional Worksheets
As a teacher, I like to save time whenever possible. One of the best ways to do this is to use worksheets that other teachers have created. Here are some of the top 3rd conditional worksheet sources:
3rd Conditional ESL Lesson Plans
A nice way to save a ton of time is to use lessons that other teachers have created. Here are some top picks:
Online Practice for the Third Conditional
My students always ask me where they can get additional practice with English grammar. Here are some of the top resources for this specific one:
More Ideas for Teaching English
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 148 Pages - 03/09/2016 (Publication Date)
The key to better English classes is a wide variety of interactive and student-centred games and activities. This book will help you get there in style!
You can find the book in a variety of formats. Pick up a copy of the book today and get ready for better English lessons tomorrow:
There are a number of common questions that people have about teaching the third conditional. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.
How do you teach the third conditional in a fun way?
To teach the third conditional in a fun way, you can use a variety of games and activities such as conversation starters, running dictation, vocabulary auction, videos, or dicto gloss.
What is the formula of the third conditional?
The formula of the third conditional is:
If + past perfect verb + would have/wouldn’t have + past participle.
What are some third conditional example sentences?
Some examples of third conditional sentences are:
- If it had rained, I wouldn’t have had to water the garden.
- You would have been cold today if you hadn’t brought your jacket.
- You would have gotten that job if you had more experience in the industry.
Third Conditional Activities: Join the Conversation
Do you have any ideas for teaching the 3rd conditional? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
Last update on 2022-07-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API