Ellen probably wouldn't have survived, let alone broken the record, if she didn't have such extreme mental toughness.

Is it the third conditional? I guess, they talking about past events that didn't happen. Then why "if part" of the sentence contains the past simple verb and not the past perfect?

Also this sentence from the same text

But if she hadn't endured such tough experiences herself, she wouldn't understand nearly as much about what these young people have to face.


  • 2
    Unless you've introduced transcription errors yourself, DaBu, I wouldn't take too much notice of anything you find in this particular source. Both sentences strike me as clumsy, and the second one includes at least two out-and-out errors. Aug 14, 2014 at 21:04
  • Sorry, I've made corrections.
    – DaBu
    Aug 16, 2014 at 8:00
  • Okay, well I'll leave the comment anyway. But it would be helpful if you could tell us the source of any text you want to ask about here - I still think both sentences are clumsy, and StoneyB's probably written by a non-native speaker looks like a credible explanation to me. More importantly, I completely agree with him that “nth conditional” analysis is not a useful approach to English syntax/choice of verb form. Aug 16, 2014 at 12:13
  • Sure, I can share the source. It's "New Total English - Upper Intermediate - Students’ Book". Text "One woman's determination" page 64. I added photo at the end of the original post.
    – DaBu
    Aug 17, 2014 at 13:06

1 Answer 1


The uses of tense here are possible. Both sentences have a past irrealis in the in the condition clause and present irrealis in the consequence clause. The first sentence implies that Ellen's past survival was attributable to a toughness which she still possesses. The second implies that her present understanding is attributable to her past endurance.

However, these are rather borderline uses; and such tough experience and this young people in the second sentence suggests that the sentences were probably written by a non-native speaker.

In any case, you clearly have sufficient knowledge of English syntax to discard the “nth conditional” framework, which is merely a pedagogical device for introducing learners to conditional constructions and bears no relationship to the realities of English syntax.

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