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Grammar 32 - Conditionals - Impossible
"If Anamika had worn the new dress she might have won the beauty pageant." - This is an impossible conditional sentence.

Grammar 32 - Conditionals - Impossible

In the past two High English grammar quizzes we looked at two aspects of conditional sentences where probable conditionals and hypothetical conditionals were used. In this quiz we look at another aspect of conditionals which is the impossible conditional.

Remember when you did not do well in your tests? You probably thought:

‘If I had revised, I would have done well in the tests.’

This sentence is an example of an impossible conditional sentence. We notice that we have speculated on a past event that has occurred and you can do nothing about it now - but you can speculate what would have happened if you had done things differently. The impossible conditional is also used when we want to express reproach or regret, as in this sentence:

‘If you hadn’t given me wrong directions, I would have reached my destination earlier.’

From looking at these examples we notice that there are rules of grammar the impossible conditional sentence takes. The basic form is ‘If + past perfect would + have + past participle’. The impossible conditionals also take other forms. Instead of ‘would’ we can use ‘could’ and ‘might’ to signify ability and possibility respectively. Look at these sentences:

‘If we had found a competent sales manager, we could have increased sales in the last quarter.’
‘If we had found a competent sales manager, we might have increased sales in the last quarter.’

Here the use of ‘could’ and ‘might’ indicate ability and possibility.

Another variation of the impossible conditional is the sentence that does not use ‘if.’ In such sentences the form is ‘had + subject + past participle would + have + past participle’ as in this sentence:

‘Had I known the train would arrive two hours late, I would have gone to the station two hours later.’

A little bit of practise will help us to understand the rules of grammar for using conditionals in sentences and the quiz that follows helps you to practise impossible conditionals.

1.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
If Anamika had worn the new dress, she could have won the beauty pageant.
If Anamika had worn the new dress, she would have won the beauty pageant.
If Anamika had worn the new dress, she might have won the beauty pageant.
All of the above are correct.
Remember that we can use 'could' and 'might' in place of 'would'
2.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
If the car engine hasn't been under powered, I could have overtaken the other car.
If the car engine hadn't been under powered, I could have overtaken the other car.
If the car engine hadn't been under powered, I could overtaken the other car.
If the car engine hadn't been under powered, I could have overtaking the other car.
Remember, the impossible conditional takes the form ‘If + past perfect would + have + past participle.’ The other options do not use the form for impossible conditional sentences
3.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
Had the management knowing there was a strike planned, it would have taken precautionary measures.
Having the management known there was a strike planned, it would have taken precautionary measures.
Had the management known there was a strike planned, it would have taken precautionary measures.
Had the management known there was a strike planned, it would have taking precautionary measures.
Remember, the impossible conditional takes the form ‘had + subject + past participle would + have + past participle.’ The other options do not use the form for impossible conditional sentences
4.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
If Boeing had designed a smaller plane, it could have sell more planes.
If Boeing had designed a smaller plane, it could has sold more planes.
If Boeing had designing a smaller plane, it could have sold more planes.
If Boeing had designed a smaller plane, it could have sold more planes.
Remember, the impossible conditional takes the form ‘If + past perfect would + have + past participle.’ Note that we have used 'could' instead of 'would' indicating the ability of Boeing to design smaller planes. The other options do not use the form for impossible conditional sentences
5.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
If we hadn't started so late, we wouldn't have missed the opening scene of the movie.
I'll go fishing if I have the time.
If I have the time, I'll go fishing.
If he treated me with more respect, I would treat his cat better.
Remember, the impossible conditional takes the form ‘If + past perfect would + have + past participle.’ Options 2 and 3 are probable conditional sentences. Remember, the probable conditional takes the form ‘If + subordinate clause in present tense followed by main clause in future tense.’ Also, we do not use a comma if the sentence begins with the main clause. Option 4 is a hypothetical conditional sentence taking the form ‘if + past tense would + bare infinitive’
6.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
He wouldn't have crashed his motorbike if he has followed the traffic rules.
He wouldn't have crash his motorbike if he had followed the traffic rules.
He wouldn't have crashed his motorbike if he had followed the traffic rules.
He wouldn't have crashed his motorbike if he had following the traffic rules.
Remember, the impossible conditional takes the form ‘If + past perfect would + have + past participle.’ Note that we started the sentence with the main clause and hence no comma is used. The other options do not use the form for impossible conditional sentences
7.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is NOT an impossible conditional sentence.
If you feel cold, you may close the window.
If the snow had not been removed from the driveway, I could not have taken the car out.
If Saurav had not beaten Raghav, he would not have got hurt.
If Eicher Motors had marketed smaller tractors, it could have helped small and marginal farmers.
The first option is a probable conditional sentence. The other options are impossible conditional sentences
8.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
If the Government had controlled inflation, it might have stopped prices from going up.
If the Government has controlled inflation, it might have stopped prices from going up.
If the Government had controlled inflation, it might have stopping prices from going up.
If the Government had controlling inflation, it might have stopped prices from going up.
Remember, the impossible conditional takes the form ‘If + past perfect would + have + past participle.’ Note that we have used 'might' instead of 'would' indicating possibility of the Government stopping prices from going up. The other options do not use the form for impossible conditional sentences
9.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
If Joseph has interest in music, he'll take music lessons.
He'll take music lessons if he has interest in music.
If he failed his exam, I could help him to learn afresh.
If they hadn't reported him, he would have escaped.
Remember, the impossible conditional takes the form ‘If + past perfect would + have + past participle.’ Options 1 and 2 are probable conditional sentences. Remember, the probable conditional takes the form ‘If + subordinate clause in present tense followed by main clause in future tense.’ Also, we do not use a comma if the sentence begins with the main clause. Option 3 is a hypothetical conditional sentence taking the form ‘if + past tense would + bare infinitive.’ In this form we also use 'could'
10.
Choose from the following options the sentence that is an impossible conditional sentence.
I would fall down if I lose my footing.
If he went on a diet, he would become thinner.
If Joseph was bitten by a dog, he would get an injection.
All three options are wrong.
Remember, the impossible conditional takes the form ‘If + past perfect would + have + past participle.’ All 3 options are hypothetical conditional sentences
Author:  V T Narendra

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