How to Say Third Conditionals Fluently

The third conditional can be difficult to get right in English, because the grammar is quite complicated.

However, it’s even more difficult to say third conditional sentences fluently, because there are two main pronunciation problems.

In this video I’ve got two pronunciation tips to help you be more confident and fluent when you use the third conditional in conversation.

If you’d like more help with understanding the video, check out the transcript below.


Hi there! I’m Clare from english-at-home.com

In today’s pronunciation video, I want to look at how you can say third conditional sentences. Third conditional sentences are tricky, but they’re even more difficult to say fluently! So I want to show you ways that you can do that.

But before we get started, I have a small favour to ask you. If you like these videos, please subscribe to my YouTube channel because you get a new video lesson every week!

OK – so lets look at a typical 3rd conditional sentence.

“If we’d left on time, we wouldn’t have missed the flight.”

So here you have the if + the past perfect, (we’d left) followed by would/wouldn’t + have + past participle (perfect infinitive).

There are two pronunciation problems with third conditional sentences:

The first pronunciation problem is the “have” of “wouldn’t have missed”. In fact, we don’t really pronounce that “have”. It becomes much smaller, it’s unstressed and we say “uhv”. So not “we wouldn’t have missed” but “we wouldn’t uhv missed”. In fact, you can hardly hear it.

“We wouldn’t uhv missed”
“wouldn’t uhv missed”

Here are some more examples of this:

In “You should have seen his face” we get “should uhv seen”.
“You should uhv seen his face”.

With could or couldn’t, for example
“You couldn’t uhv known”.

And with “wouldn’t”:
“I wouldn’t uhv expected that.”

The second pronunciation problem with third conditionals comes with the past perfect of the third conditional (“if we’d left on time”).

So the past perfect is formed by had, followed by the past participle. But remember what I said about “t” and “d” elision? (In the video you can check this out again.) This is when a word ends with “t” or “d” but is followed by another word which starts with a consonant. And in these situations, we tend to drop the “t” or “d” to make it quicker to pronounce.

So in your past perfect you’ve got “we’d left” (“if we’d left”) but because the “left” begins with a consonant sound, we’ll drop that past perfect “d”. So not “if we had left” or “If we’d left”, but “If we left”. Do you hear? It’s almost impossible to hear the “d” on the “had”. Ok, so here’s another example of that:

“If I’d known about him, I’d never have taken the job.”
“I’d known”, “I’d never”.
“If I’d known about him, I’d never have taken the job.”

And here is a final, extra pronunciation tip. Sometimes, a third conditional can be with the verb “to have”. So for example: “If she’d had more time, she would have finished the report.”

But because this second “had” is a main verb, we can’t unstress it. We’d unstress the first part, so “if she’d” – that part is unstressed; but the next part “had” – we can’t make that an unstressed form. You can’t say “if she’d uhd more time”. No. “If she’d had more time”.

“If she’d had more time, she would have finished the report.”

Don’t forget. For more free English, you can subscribe to my channel, and you can watch another video. Please also leave a comment. Thanks for watching – bye!