ESL games should always be fun and educational. However, when teaching higher level grammar structures like the third conditional it is often hard to find the correct balance of difficulty and fun.

This ESL game was inspired by a recent story in which an American Dentist travelled to Zimbabwe and engaged in the illegal poaching of Cecil: Africa’s most famous lion. The incident sparked international outrage.

At the time of writing this post, the hunter in question, Dr. Walter J Palmer, is in hiding and his Dental practice has been closed indefinitely. One can only speculate that he is filled with a deep sense of Regret. This brings us to, the third conditional.

The third conditional is used to talk about impossible situations. E.g. If I had studied harder in high school, I would have gotten into a better university. The situation is impossible to remedy because it’s in the past and can not be changed.

The main clauses used are: would, could and might.

This ESL game can work in almost size of class.

Regrets should take around 10 – 15 minutes to play.

The only material you’ll need is a timer.

This ESL game is played by combining two classic games (Hot Potato and A Word Chain) and then adding the third conditional language target.

How to:

Divide you class into groups of between 2 and 5 students.

Set a timer to a random time between 1.5 – 3 minutes.

Students have to use the third conditional in a sentence. E.g. "If I hadn’t gone to Africa, I wouldn’t have killed the lion."

The next student sitting beside the speaker then has to link to the second half of the prior speaker's sentence while adding their own clause. E.g. “If I hadn’t killed the lion, I wouldn’t be hiding from the police.” If I hadn’t hidden from the police, I wouldn’t have had to close my business..”

The game continues until the timer goes off. The student that is speaking when the timer goes off is eliminated.

The game continues by repeating steps 2-5 (with increasingly shorter amounts of time provided) until only one member remains in each group.

I hope your ESL class loves this game as much as mine does. By making a game both current and topical it’s much easier for students to a connection between why they are studying a language target and exactly how it can be applied in natural English conversation.


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