I'm Spanish and I'm doing some exercises to practise for my exams and I have just seen this question:

If I ___ eaten so much food, I wouldn't feel sick now.

The options to fill the gap were: hadn't / didn't / wouldn't

Finally, the resolution seems to be "hadn't", but I don't understand that conditional formation. I mean, I reckon that there is "Second conditional" that has this formation: If + Past simple + , + Would + Infinitive form of the verb and a "Third conditional" that is like that: If + Past Perfect + , + Would + have + Past participle form of the verb

but the exercise quote don't match with any of this conditional forms. Can anyone explain this to me?


  • 2
    I have eaten a lot of food. If I had not eaten so much, I would not feel sick. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


You should remember that the so-called First, Second, and Third conditionals are merely teaching devices in ESL classes, to capture using comparatively simple rules the majority of the commonly used conditional forms. No native speaker learns these numbered forms or uses them to classify conditionals, and they do not capture all valid English conditional forms.

"I had eaten a lot on the previous day." is the past perfect. It describes an action in the past that has been completed and precedes another action. Thus the sentence

If I had not eaten so much food, I would not feel sick now.

uses the past perfect in a conditional form. but "had not" and "would not" are commonly contracted, leading to:

If I hadn't eaten so much food, I wouldn't feel sick now.

This is probably closest to the form known in ESL classes as the Third Conditional. It is, in any case a valid conditional form. This sentencfe assumes a thing that did not occur, and states what would have followed if it had occurred. In so doing, it indicates how the present condition (feeling sick) is a result of tha actual past event (having eaten so much).

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