Speaking Activity: Mistakes in the Past (Mixed/Third Conditional) ESL

Target Language: third conditional, mixed conditional, past modals of regret (should have/could have)

ESL Level: Upper-intermediate

Time Needed: approximately 25 minutes

Number of Students: 2 or more

Materials Needed: copies of printout for each pair

Worksheet Download: mistakes-in-the-past-roleplays-esl.docx

Speaking Activity Description

(Note: there is a preview below)

I designed this speaking activity so my students could practice the third conditional.

First, students are put into pairs and they are asked to think of reasons for why people would find themselves in certain situations (e.g. homeless, dumped by girlfriend, etc). Students can write down their reasons in point form.

In the second half of the speaking activity, students role-play two people who are in the aforementioned situations. They can use their reasons in the role-play.

Before they begin, encourage students to try to use expressions for criticism and regret in their role-plays.

My students enjoyed this activity. We did it for 15 minutes, and we only finished the first two roleplays (they really got into it).

Mistakes in the Past (Third Conditional): Worksheet Preview

Mistakes in the Past

Part 1: With a partner, think of reasons why:

1. a person might be homeless.



2. someone might have broken up with his/her boyfriend or girlfriend.



3. a student might have failed an exam.



4. a child might have to stay in his/her room for a week as punishment.



Part 2: Decide who is StudentA and who is StudentB. Then, role-play the below situations. You will use the reasons you wrote in Part 1 in your role-plays. When role-playing, use expressions for criticism and regret. For example:

·      If you hadn’t stolen the cookie, I wouldn’t have gotten angry.

·      You shouldn’t have stolen the cookie!

1StudentA: You are homeless. You are on the street. You have had problems in your life (see reasons for #1 above). You see a person on the street (StudentB). Tell him/her about the hard life you have had and the mistakes you have made. Try to get help and money. You will start the conversation.
StudentB: You are a businesses person. You are on the street. You see a homeless person. You don’t want to talk to him/her, but s/he looks like he is going to talk to you.


2StudentA: Your partner has just broken up with you. You had problems in your relationship (see reasons for #2 above). You want him/her back.  You have decided to go to his/her house. Knock on the door and try to convince him/her to take you back.
StudentB: You have just broken up with your partner. You had problems in your relationship (see reasons for #2 above). You are happy now. You are relaxing at home, watching TV.


3StudentA: You are a teacher. One of your students has just failed his/her exam. The student wasn’t a very good student (see reasons for #3 above). It is your school’s policy that final exams cannot be taken again. You are in your office.
StudentB: You are a student. You have just failed an important exam. You have had many problems (see reasons for #3 above). You are at your teacher’s office. Explain your situation. Knock on his/her door, and try to get her/him to let you write it again.


4 StudentA: You are a parent. Your child has been very bad recently (see reasons for #4 above), so you have told him/her to stay in his/her room for a week. You are downstairs now, relaxing.
StudentB: You are a child. Your parents have told you to stay in your room all week because of problems you have caused (see reasons for #4 above). But you don’t think it’s fair. Go downstairs and try to get your parent to forgive you.

I hope your students find this speaking activity fun.

– Matthew Barton of Englishcurrent.com (Copyright)

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12 comments on “Speaking Activity: Mistakes in the Past (Mixed/Third Conditional) ESL

  1. ryoya (Posted on 12-29-2014 at 03:44) Reply

    all of these resources are very helpful. thank you very much.

  2. Mireia (Posted on 3-11-2015 at 16:03) Reply

    This is great! Thank you very much, it was really helpful!

  3. ellie (Posted on 4-24-2015 at 07:19) Reply

    looks like a great activity!!

  4. Anonymous (Posted on 2-17-2016 at 20:00) Reply

    Of great help, Thanks

  5. Tithies (Posted on 4-16-2016 at 13:09) Reply

    Thanks, G!

  6. Tim Wodzynski (Posted on 9-25-2016 at 23:00) Reply

    This will help me out a lot and thanks for the help

  7. aninayunnie (Posted on 12-4-2016 at 03:07) Reply

    This will truly help me.

  8. Adolfo (Posted on 3-16-2017 at 11:18) Reply

    Very Helpful! I really like them.

  9. Anonymous (Posted on 4-10-2018 at 10:22) Reply

    Wonderful and useful! This will surely help my students not only to be engaged in the class but to develop their understanding meaningfully about third conditionals. Thanks!

  10. Monib (Posted on 4-14-2018 at 05:49) Reply

    It is very helpful. Thanks.

  11. Lee Weingast (Posted on 6-19-2019 at 18:12) Reply

    I don’t support the idea of making homelessness seem caused by the homeless person’s mistakes when in reality homelessness is often caused when hard-working, low-income earner gets ill or has their rent raised. Also, homeless people are people too.

    1. mb Post author (Posted on 6-19-2019 at 19:28) Reply

      Even such cases would provide opportunities for the use of third conditional, mixed conditional, past modals of regret (should have/could have), which is the focus on this webpage.

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