If our sample had a lot of variation in people’s abilities, our results could be biased.

We talk about the past. Therefore we should the type 3 conditional, with past perfect. However, the condition might well be true, we are just unable to confirm it, due to not measuring people's abilities. It is not an unlikely scenario and the result might well be true in the present.

  • Are you saying the author used the wrong structure? What would you suggest? Apr 24, 2020 at 15:20
  • This is my sentence. I am asking which type of conditional sentence should one use in such a scenario.
    – Borut Flis
    Apr 25, 2020 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


The meaning you want is an "open" conditional: it's as likely as not. This is used with a modal preterite, the verb "had" in the if clause. This is not the same as "past" in time.
This particular use resembles what some teaching websites call the "second conditional":
Cambridge "imagined conditions"
"We use the second conditional to talk about the possible result of an imagined situation in the present or future. We say what the conditions must be for the present or future situation to be different."

Your example uses the verb "had" in the "if" clause, plus modal "could" in the main clause, which seems to fit the description at that website.

I suggest that this isn't a "past" meaning in the temporal sense. It actually has a "future" aspect, because you are talking about conditions that may exist at present, and may be found to be true later.

I believe your suggested sentence is correct for the situation you describe.

I've looked at a few websites that categorize conditionals, and they are variable as to the number of categories, the time frames involved, and the degree of unreality implied. In addition to that, they refer to "mixed conditionals", which suggests that the categories shouldn't be taken as rigid at all.

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