Third Conditional - A Fun Task

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badgirl_475945015The third conditional can be a pretty dry grammar point to teach! Here’s one way of making it a little more fun and engaging for your students.

Enter the room upset and tell students that yesterday, you had the worst day imaginable – hold up your purse/wallet and ask students what they think happened.

You might get something like this in response:
‘Did you lose your purse/wallet?’
‘You took someone else’s purse/wallet that had the same one as you’
‘You bought a new purse/wallet and now you don’t like it.’

Be as animated as you like with this!  The more you are, the more fun it is and the more engaged they get...(even if they know it’s part of the lesson)

Begin to tell the class what happened …..You can download the full lesson here 

‘When I left school, I went to meet my friend for a coffee.   I stayed late correcting some of your homework so when I realised the time I rushed out of the school and hurried down to the cafe. When I went to my purse to pay for our coffees, it wasn’t there.   I couldn’t believe it! Then, I remembered I had left my purse in my classroom. I rushed back to the school but it was closed and everyone had gone home.  I had no money for a coffee or for a bus home.’

What do you think I did next? Give students about two minutes to come up with some ideas with their partners before continuing the story.


I called my friend who was still in the cafe and asked her if she could lend me some money
for a bus until tomorrow and then she started screaming ‘come back here, come back
here’  – someone had just robbed her handbag when she answered the phone.

I knew I had money in my other purse at home so I decided to call a taxi.  You won’t believe what happened next…



Again in pairs students share their ideas on what they think may have happened next before you continue telling the rest of the story, pausing to get their ideas ….

‘The taxi never came…’

‘The taxi driver didn’t believe I had money at home’

‘I couldn’t get a taxi because they were so busy’



My phone died.  Now, I had no money and no phone and my friend’s handbag had been stolen.  We didn’t know what to do next so we did something really stupid. I knew my purse was in my classroom and knew I needed to get it. I went to the back of the school and tried to open my classroom window but I couldn’t.  I could see my purse on my desk.

arrested_131339297What do you think happened?? (2 minute discussion)

Without thinking, I picked up a rock and smashed the window.  Suddenly, the alarm went off.  I climbed in the window quickly and grabbed my purse.  I didn’t have the alarm code to turn it off; It was in my phone.


Then suddenly, I could hear sirens; someone had called the police.


Then what happened?  Encourage students to use their imaginations and go around the classroom gathering feedback…

Now, hand out the cut up pieces of the story for students to piece back together.  Go through any tricky vocabulary, eliciting the meaning and concept checking understanding.

Now tell your students that you have many regrets about that day.  Write one on the board:

If I hadn’t stayed so late correcting your homework, I wouldn’t have been in a rush and would have remembered to take my purse with me.

This is just one of them.  Elicit another one from the whole class.  After getting another example, elicit the grammar in use (Third Conditional), why we use it (to talk about past regrets) and the structure.

(If + subject + past perfect simple, subject + would/wouldn’t have + past participle…..)

Now in small groups, students create their own third conditional sentences from the story.


2 Responses

  1. Lynda Deckard Ramos

    What a fun idea!!

  2. Gordon Dobie

    Brilliant way to practise 3rd con.!

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