Is "If I knew French, I would have spoken it" grammatically wrong? cause I think it doesn't fit into the those 4 types of conditionals. the closest one to it maybe the third conditional but in the third one, we usually have past perfect+would have+past participle but here we clearly have If +past simple + would have+past participle, so is it a sort of 3rd conditional also? or maybe mixed conditional? I mean can we use past tense, here "knew", instead of past perfect or it is grammatically wrong?

  • Welcome! Please edit your question to explain what concerns you about the sentence. And does this help? Dec 3, 2021 at 21:11
  • alright, I'll provide more explanations. thanks for welcoming me by the way. Dec 3, 2021 at 21:14
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    Thanks! Also, I imagine "had" is meant to be "have" in the quoted sentence? Dec 3, 2021 at 21:24
  • thanks for answer for that part, I knew that tip, which you just noted, and I just changed it to "have", because my question is about the "knew" at the first of sentence. Dec 3, 2021 at 21:27
  • My friend said 'When Madame de Croiset asked me to be her lover, if I knew French, I would have spoken it, but I had to be content with "Yes please!"' Dec 3, 2021 at 21:37

1 Answer 1


"If I knew French [if clause formed with 2nd conditional], I would have spoken it [main clause formed with 3rd conditional]". Thus, the sentence has been a mixed conditional. Such construction has always been prevailing, besides 0~3 conditional, and is grammatically correct.

The main clause is formed as 3rd conditional and denotes a past, real event that was missed by the speaker.

Meanwhile the If clause, formed with the past simple (2nd conditional), refers to present hypothetical. The speaker still does not know the French as of while he is speaking, and seemingly, he will never (at least not anytime soon).

Plenty of example sentences including their contexts are available online.


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