Thursday, August 7, 2014

Conditional Sentences (If clauses)

As an introduction, here are a few sentences that use conditional forms:

  • If we study the rules for conditional sentences, we will be able to use them properly(Future Real Conditional)

  • However, if the rules weren’t so complicated, they would be a lot easier to learn!  (Present Unreal Conditional)


There are  FOUR types of conditional sentences (also called “if clauses”) in English:

1)  Let's looks at this sentence: When I go to school, I bring my backpack.

 This form is called... “Present Real Conditional”   (or “Zero Conditional”)

(*This one is the easiest to use and understand!)

  • Form: If/When… present simple, …..present simple…..
  • Use: something that is always true
  • Example 2: If the weather is nice, she walks to work.
  • (or She walks to work if the weather is nice.)

2)  Here is another kind of sentence: When Jimmy has time, he will help you with your homework.

This sentence means:  Jimmy is really going to help you when he has time later.

This form is called... “Future Real Conditional”  (or “First Conditional”)

  • Form: If/When……present simple,……..will+verb…..  OR If….present simple,… going to + verb…../
  • Use: a real future possibility
  • Example 2:  If I have time tomorrow, I am going to finish my shopping.
  • (or I am going to finish my shopping if I have time tomorrow.)
  • (This means: It is really possible that I will have time tomorrow. If I do have time, my plan is to finish my shopping.)

Here are some links for more information and practice: 

3) Let's look at another form: If I had more money, I would buy a vacation home in Greece.

This sentence means: I don't have a lot of money now. I'm imagining what I would if I had more money. I would buy a home in Greece. 

This form is called...  "Present/Future Unreal Conditional" (or "Second Conditional") 

  • Form: If….past simple, ….. would+ verb…..
  • Use: an imaginary (hypothetical) present or future situation; possible but unlikely
  • Example 2: If she won the lottery next week, she would buy a bigger house immediately.
  • (or She would buy a bigger house if she won the lottery next week.)
  • (This means: She probably isn’t going to win the lottery next week, but if she does, she will buy a bigger home.

Here are some links for more information and practice: 

4) Here is one more conditional form: If I had brought my own car, I would have driven you home after the party.

This sentence means: I didn't bring my car to the party, and I didn't drive you home. But if I had brought it, I would have given you a ride home.

This form is called...  'Unreal Past Conditional" (or "Third Conditional") 

  • Form: If….had+past participle,….. would+have+past participle…..
  • Use: an imaginary past situation; an impossible situation, because we are talking about the past
  • Example 2: If she hadn’t forgotten her sister’s birthday, they wouldn’t have quarreled.
  • (or They wouldn’t have quarreled if she hadn’t forgotten her sister’s birthday.)
  • (This means: She forgot her sister’s birthday, and they quarreled. But if she hadn’t forgotten it, they would not have quarreled.)

Here are some links for more information and practice: 

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