The title speaks for itself, i can't understand the difference.

Let's take this example:

Type 2: If she fell, she would hurt herself.

Type 3: If she had fallen, she would have hurt herself.

For me both are correct and both are usable when you saw a girl jumping on the edge of a building in the past. Rules are saying that type 2 describes an unreal situation, but the girl jumping on the edge is real, and the possibility of her falling off is real too.

  • 3
    The phrase "Nth conditional" is used by some (by no means all) ESL texts for certain partial constructions in a Latinate grammar. It is not a standard term in English grammar, except for certain non-native English teachers and the textbooks they use. There is no standard. Sep 8, 2017 at 16:02
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    What are you talking about? Can't link your answer with my question :\
    – Stanislav
    Sep 8, 2017 at 16:06
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    If you don't understand the difference between the Nth and the Nth+1 conditional, that may be because there isn't a well-defined difference. No matter what your English teacher says. Sep 8, 2017 at 16:08
  • I have no teachers, i learn English by myself. I've tried to google to find out the difference, but all examples are simmilar and make no sense to me, like the one i've mentioned in this post. I'm not familiar with these "Nth" and "Nth+1" conditionals you've mentioned, google gives some css tags, nothing on english grammar :)
    – Stanislav
    Sep 8, 2017 at 16:14
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    I agree with others in migrating this to ELL because numbering conditionals is most often used (and probably most useful) in a didactic context. Sep 8, 2017 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


Type 2: If she fell, she would hurt herself. This would fit if the girl is currently on a ledge; it's describing a circumstance (being hurt) that could result from present circumstance (falling).

Type 3: If she had fallen, she would have hurt herself. This would fit if the girl being on the ledge was a past event. It implies that she did not fall and thus did not hurt herself. This is called counterfactual statement about a past event.

  • So when we say "if she fell..." we mean "if she will fall in a moment"/"if she falls now"? We dont mean the past tense? It's so confusing...
    – Stanislav
    Sep 8, 2017 at 17:02
  • Correct. Historically this is not a past tense, but a subjunctive form; but in modern English the subjunctive is indistiguishable from the past on only one instance: were vs was. (It is sometimes called the past subjunctive, to distinguish it from the also obsolescent present subjunctive; but it does not have past meaning).
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 8, 2017 at 17:07
  • @ColinFine oh, yeah, that make sense when you say 'if i were', not 'if iwas'. Thanks, now it's more clear to me. I've always tried to connect it to the past tense in my mind.
    – Stanislav
    Sep 8, 2017 at 17:10
  • "if she fell" (and similar expressions) uses the "past subjunctive" as it's properly called and describes non-factual/hypothetical situations. It contrasts with the First Conditional (Which in formal/fixed expressions) might use the present subjunctive about future events
    – eques
    Sep 8, 2017 at 17:11

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