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.