I was reading Desire by Haruki Murakami and I wonder what grammar is

To reach the source of the aroma, however, he would have to go down a steep flight of stairs, seventeen of them.

What type of conditional is it? 3rd one?

  • 2
    Please don't put partial answers as comments. This bypasses the Stack exchange voting system. Write an answer, or if you cannot write a proper answer, remain silent. Use comments to suggest improvements or ask for clarification of the question.
    – James K
    Jun 22, 2018 at 13:39
  • 1
    It would be very useful if you could provide text, a graphic, or a link to "the types of conditionals," so that everybody can know what you're referring to without having to look it up. Also, why you think it's the third one. Jun 22, 2018 at 15:51
  • @James I agree with you (I believe it's the First, or Type 1, depending on your terminology), and I might post that as an answer—but only if more information is provided in the question. As it is, it's incomplete. Jun 22, 2018 at 15:52
  • I see no reason for the close votes as the question reads while I post this. What more information is needed? Why would we need to know why the OP thinks it exemplifies the third conditional? Jun 29, 2018 at 3:32

4 Answers 4


It is a conditional sentence, but it is none of the "types" of conditionals that are often used in English teaching.

While the classification of some numbered "types" of conditional constructions is commonly used by teachers and pedagogical grammars (e.g., zero, first, second, third, mixed), this type of classification is not necessarily done in a "good" (parsimonious, comprehensive, accurately descriptive) grammar.

Another way to classify conditionals, just for one example, is open and remote.

  1. If he loves her, he'll leave his job.

  2. If he loved her, he'd leave his job.

In 1, the question of whether of not he loves her is left open. We don't know if he does, does not, will, will not.

In 2, there is a suggestion that he probably does not love her, and the implication that he has not left his job is evidence of that.

Examples from A Student's Introduction to English Grammar. Huddleston and Pullam. 2005. pp. 46-7. ISBN 9780521612883.


This sentence consists of an explicit main clause (would + infinitive) and an implicit if clause (past simple) of the type 2 conditional. The whole sentence might look more or less like this:

To reach the source of the aroma, however, he would have to go down a steep flight of stairs, seventeen of them, if he wanted to do that.

  • As far as I know, conditionals have two parts: one part contains the condition, the other part the consequence. Although the condition part very often begins with if, this is not always the case. For example: Unless he goes down the stairs, he won't reach the source of the aroma. Therefore, I don't think it's necessary or the best analysis to suggest that the sentence contains an "implicit if clause". I think this answer gives some kind of useful insight, but as it stands, it seems an insufficient answer to me. Jun 29, 2018 at 5:52
  • Yes, almost. :)
    – Lambie
    Dec 13, 2018 at 22:22

1) To reach the source of the aroma however, he would have to go down a steep flight of stairs, seventeen of them.

1a) If he wanted to reach the source of the aroma however, he would have to go down a steep flight of steps.

2) To get home on time for dinner, I would have to leave now.

2a) If I wanted to get home for dinner, I would have to leave now.

The bare infinitive clause can be used in lieu of a main clause of what otherwise would be a conditional sentence (type 1 if you use that terminology).

The pattern is: If + simple past, subject + would (verb).

The "replacement" pattern is: To (bare infinitive clause), subject + would (verb).

So, one could say that there is an implied if-clause.


Disclaimer: I studied English and related languages from a diachronic perspective in undergraduate and graduate school; the following is not how a contemporary grammarian is likely to describe the situation.

Over the course of its use in English, to (and its cognates) introduces a goal or outcome, broadly stated: an end, an intention, a destination, a fate, and so on.

The infinitive and infinitive clauses can express an end or intended result.

To {arrive at work on time}, I leave at 6AM.

To {stay dry in the rain}, bring an umbrella.

In this pattern, the "required condition" is expressed in the main clause. So, if we "flip" those sentences above, now making the main clause there an if-clause:

If you bring an umbrella, you stay dry in the rain.

If I leave at 6AM, I arrive at work on time.

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