Third Conditional Hypothetical Situations: The Achievements of 2021

by | Dec 8, 2021


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I knew that subscription the New York Times newsletter would be worth it…
This activity only includes a selection of the the firsts. If you want to go further, you can read the article at The New York Times.

We are hardly past Black Friday and we haven’t even reached peak Christmas joy, yet, but I’m already receiving The best books of 2021 and 2021 in review type articles in my inbox. And what if something amazing happens next week, huh? Not gonna make the list?

Anyway, yesterday, a pretty cool list landed in my inbox. I knew it was perfect fodder for an ESL activity… but what to do with it?

I hope I’ve landed on something interesting for anyone teaching or reviewing the third conditional and hypothetical situations. In this activity, students will read through this list of 10 firsts of 2021 and then imagine hypothetical situations which would have prevented this achievement. You see? The grammar is already baked into the question…

How to use it?

Students will look at the list of achievements of 2021 and imagine hypothetical situations which would have prevented them. They will, of course, need to use the third conditional to create the hypothetical situation. Every student should receive a paper sheet or their own PDF to work with.

Warm-up activity

Ask your students if they had any firsts in 2021, or any big (or small!) achievements. Share them with the class in turns.

The Activity

Here, students will write out their scenarios in the third conditional. All of the 2021 firsts have been written in the passive voice in order for your students to get some practice transcribing these phrases into the third conditional format.

Give students a time limit to come up with their responses. Then, take turns sharing the scenarios with the class. You can vote on the most realistic, funniest, absurd, etc.

On page 2 you will find some random elements you can use to make the activity more fun and challenging. Print out one sheet and put it in the middle of the table. Or, screen share page 2 for everyone to see. Students take turns trying to come up with their scenarios by using these elements.

If a student is able to create a grammatically correct and coherent phrase in the third conditional, they can mark that square as theirs. The first student to get three in a row (horizontal, diagonal, or vertical) wins the game.

You could also play a game where students create their scenarios on bits of paper (or on their interactive PDF), but only the second half! Then, put the bits of paper in the middle of the table and have another student draw one. They will try to match the if… part of the scenario with the achievement. You can do this as a class or in small groups.

If you are playing online, just have students take turns typing out their if… clauses in the chat – the other students will try to guess the scenario.

Ian Kime

Ian Kime

I have been teaching English abroad since receiving my CELTA certificate in Poland in 2018. I enjoy tracking my individual students’ development but love having lessons with big groups! Now that I teach online, I am accompanied by my sidekicks Olaf, Mała, Pirate and Bandit on a regular basis.


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