You are on page 1of 2

Here's an effective way to teach the third conditional to your ESL students.

1. First, write a short story (a few paragraphs is fine) about someone who had a bad day. The first
paragraph could start something like this:

Sarah had to be at the airport for her flight at 9am, but her alarm didn't go off and so she

With this example you could continue to talk about Sarah's travel problems as the day
progressed. Maybe she forgot her passport and had to rush back home to get it, which made her
miss her flight, and so on. The key is to create a problem in each paragraph and describe what
happened as a result.

2. Once you've got your story, cut it up into paragraphs and you're ready to go. Pre-teach any
vocabulary you need to and divide your students into pairs or small groups. Then hand out the
story and ask the students to put the paragraphs into the correct order.

3. When everyone has ordered the story correctly, ask your students if Sarah (we'll use the
example from above) had a good or a bad day. (They should of course say "bad"!) Ask one pair
to tell you Sarah's first problem and write it on the board. Then go from pair to pair and elicit the
other problems. When you've got them all on the board, ask pairs what the result of each problem
was, and write these next to their corresponding problems.

So now, on the board, you might have something like this:

Her alarm didn't go off – she overslept
She forgot her passport – she missed her flight

and so on. Leave some space under each one for the next step.

4. Tell students they are now going to imagine that Sarah had a good day. Ask one pair to tell you
the opposite of the first problem-result, and write this underneath it:

A Her alarm didn't go off – she overslept.
B Her alarm went off - she didn't oversleep.

To clarify that sentence A is the "real" past, ask students which sentence really happened in the
story, and which we are just imagining.

Now draw their attention to sentence B. Reinforce once again that this is imagining a different
past, and ask them how they would express this idea in a sentence beginning with "If..." You may
have a more advanced student who gives you the correct third conditional sentence. If not, tell

Put students into pairs and have them tell each other their regrets. Students then report back to the class about their partners' regrets. B Her alarm went off . If I'd studied French. but make sure you don't have a full-on discussion about any regrets which could be sensitive for the student concerned. And there you have it. We often use the third conditional to express regret. Go through one or two more examples on the board. Make sure you monitor well here to ensure correct use of the third conditional as it comes up. and you would like them to note them down. an easy way to teach the third conditional to your ESL students. 5. Model it first: Tell the class you are going to talk about a few regrets you've had in your life (you can make them up if you want!). If her alarm had gone off. I would have worked in Paris. Now give students a few minutes to think of some regrets of their own (tell them they can make them up if they are not comfortable talking about their past). . Now it's time for some practice. and then ask students to try the remaining problems themselves.she didn't oversleep. reconstructing the third conditional sentences correctly.them. Highlight the form: Past Perfect + Would(n't) have + Past participle. she wouldn't have overslept. For example: I regret not studying French. and write it on the board under sentence B so that they can see the connection with the imaginary situation: A Her alarm didn't go off – she overslept. and this makes a good context for a communicative activity. You can develop some into a discussion if you like. Be sure to get feedback to check they are forming the third conditional correctly. Ask individual students to report back your regrets to you. 6.

Related Interests