I came across these sentences and I couldn't determine which type of conditional they were.

  1. If you didn't go to the last meeting, you won't be allowed in the next one.

  2. If you didn't like that car, you shouldn't have bought it.

Especially the second sentence I don't get how a past real condition(past simple) with an unreal past result(present perfect) works

The first seems to me like a first conditional but it's not. I hope you can explain to me what these are.

1 Answer 1


Both the conditionals have a past tense in the protasis, which is usually a sign of an irrealis or counterfactual conditional. But in both these instances, it is actually a realis conditional in the past.

The first says that if it is actually, now, a fact that you didn't go to the last meeting, then you will not be allowed to the next one: it is not a hypothetical.

Similarly, the second one is not a hypothetical ("what would have happened if you didn't like the car") but says that if in fact you didn't like the car, then it was not a good idea ("shouldn't") for you to buy it.

I don't know with any clarity what "first" and "third" conditionals are - I know a fair bit of linguistics, but I've never been involved in TESOL.

If a first conditional is defined by having a non-past verb, then those are not first conditionals. If a first conditional is defined by being realis rather than irrealis, then those are first conditionals, despite their past tense verbs.

And if what you have been taught is that a past tense in a conditional implies that it is irrealis, then these are counter-examples that show that you have been taught an oversimplification.

  • Today I learned the word "protasis". :-)
    – stangdon
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 21:02
  • The 0-1-2-3 model of conditionals is... kind of bad, really. Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 21:20

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