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Hi, Ahmed,

Hello. I'm really confused about how to use "unless" in 2nd and 3rd conditionals. Is the following sentence correct? Why? Please explain in simple language.

- Unless he had helped me, I wouldn't have been able to finish the work.

Thank you.

As I have said before, I see that using 'if ....not' is much better than 'unless' here. To me, using 'unless' seems illogical since you know that he did help you. BTW, I sometimes see many multiple choice questions dealing with 'unless' incorrectly and I just overlook this mistake.

Last edited by ahmed_btm

Hi David, my apologies, but it didn't mean any advertising - I just wanted to help a bit. I'm a tutor myself, and I understand how it can be difficult to avoid all the mistakes for learners.

That's good to hear, Dreamy Irene. Welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

We occasionally have problems with advertisers here, so we are always on our guard. Had you been a long-time member, the link would have been fine.

The question about the use of "unless" in so-called second and third conditionals is one that eternally recurs among our Egyptian members.

On this pass, I again feel that "unless" doesn't work in this context. However, I did think of an interesting exception.

"Unless"-clauses do work in second and third conditionals in detached "Not unless" sentences, whose conditional meaning is elliptical or implicit—e.g.:

(1) He wouldn't have helped me. Not unless I had given him a hundred dollars.

The meaning of the "Not"-unless sentence (these are common in spoken English) is "If I had given him a hundred dollars, he would have helped me."

Last edited by David, Moderator

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