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Verbs in time clauses and 'if' clauses

Undefined

Level: beginner

Verbs in time clauses and conditionals usually follow the same patterns as in other clauses but there are some differences when we:

  • talk about the future
  • make hypotheses.

Talking about the future

In time clauses with words like when, after and until, we often use present tense forms to talk about the future:

I'll come home when I finish work.
You must wait here until your father comes.
They are coming after they have had dinner.

In conditional clauses with words like if, unless, even if, we often use present tense forms to talk about the future:

We won't be able to go out if it is raining.
I will come tomorrow unless I have to look after the children.
Even if Barcelona lose tomorrow, they will still be champions.

We do not normally use will in time clauses and conditional clauses:

I'll come home when I finish work. (NOT will finish work)
We won't be able to go out if it rains. (NOT will rain)
It will be nice to see Peter when he gets home. (NOT will get home)
You must wait here until you father comes. (NOT will come)

but we can use will if it means want to or be willing to:

I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us.

Future time and conditional clauses 1

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Future time and conditional clauses 2

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Level: intermediate

Making hypotheses

Some conditional clauses are like hypotheses, so we use past tense forms.

We use past tense forms to talk about something that does not happen or is not happening in the present:

He could get a new job if he really tried.
        (= He cannot get a job because he has not tried.)
If Jack was playing, they would probably win.
        (= Jack is not playing so they will probably not win.)
If I had his address, I could write to him.
        (= I do not have his address so I cannot write to him.)

We use past tense forms to talk about something that we believe or know will not happen in the future:

We would go by train if it wasn't so expensive.
       (= We will not go by train because it is too expensive.)
I would look after the children for you at the weekend if I was at home.
       (= I cannot look after the children because I will not be at home.)

We use past tense forms to make suggestions about what might happen in the future:

If he came tomorrow, we could borrow his car.
If we invited John, Mary would bring Angela.

After I/he/she/it, we can use were instead of was:

If Jack was/were playing, they would probably win.
We would go by train if it wasn't/weren’t so expensive.
I would look after the children for you at the weekend if I was/were at home.

We use the past perfect to talk about something which did not happen in the past:

If you had seen him, you could have spoken to him.
        (= You did not see him so you could not speak to him.)
You could have stayed with us if you had come to London.
        (= You could not stay with us because you did not come to London.)
If we hadn't spent all our money, we could take a holiday.
        (= We have spent all our money so we cannot take a holiday.)
If I had got the job, we would be living in Paris.
        (= I did not get the job, so we are not living in Paris.)

If the main clause of a hypothetical conditional is about the present or future, we use a modal:

If I had got the job, we might be living in Paris now.
        (= I did not get the job so we are not living in Paris now.)
If you had done your homework, you would know the answer.
        (= You did not do your homework so you do not know the answer.)

If the main clause is about the past, we use a modal with have

If I had seen him, I would have spoken to him.
       (= I did not see him so I did not speak to him.)
You could have stayed with us if you had come to London.
       (= You could not stay with us because you did not come to London.)
If you had invited me, I might have come.
       (= You did not invite me so I did not come.)

Hypothetical conditionals: present/future 1

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Hypothetical conditionals: present/future 2

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Hypothetical conditionals: past 1

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Hypothetical conditionals: past 2

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Comments

Hello, dear teacher

I have a question, in the sentence below what time frame reference is used to? I mean is it a hypothetical future time or present. If it is a hypothetical conditional sentence then speaker doesn't expect the situation to happen. Please, could you explain the rule clearly for me this use of would?

"This English topic lesson was requested a few times last week as many people who are learning English are curious to know the things they would need to be able to say when visiting a hospital and talking to a doctor or nurse."

Hello Yerlan,

Would is used in the sentence as the situation described is hypothetical, as you say. Nobody is actually going to a hospital, but they may do so in the future.

If a person were definitely going to visit a hospital then you could use will:

...the things they will need to be able to say when visiting...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Good day, dear teacher

Are these sentences the same, i mean are the time frame of reference of the main clauses of these sentences the same?
Are the main clauses of the sentences refer to the present time?

Sentences:

I would have been sitting on that seat if I hadn't been late for the party.

and

I would be sitting on that seat if I hadn't been late for the party

Do i understand the meaning of these sentences correctly?! A man is sitting in the party and says if he had came to the party earlier he would be sitting on that seat right now. Or the first sentences refer to past, i mean a man thins that for example yesterday if he had came to the party earlier then he would have been sittin on that seat.

Thak you and sorry for long writing, i did what i could.

Hello Yerlan

In the first sentence (with 'would have been'), it sounds as if he is thinking about the past, for example, yesterday. I suppose that in some very specific situation, it could be that he is at the party at the time of speaking, but in general if he is at the party now, the second sentence is the one he would use to speak about the present time.

Your question was very clear -- good job explaining it!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Our Gold and dear teacher

Please, could you expalain this sentence

I understand every word in this sentence but can't connect them together to reach the meaning

The sentence is:

At this moment I will tolerate no dissent. (strong volition)

Hello Yerlan,

The sentence can be paraphrased as follows:

Right now I won't accept any disagreement.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Dear Teacher,
Please, tell me the tense of these sentences they refer to. Is it past counterfactual or present one? When do we use this forma with "would" in If-sentences like these and about differences between two of them. I have read about the usage of it in wikipedia, but not clearly understood it.

"If you would listen to me once in a while, you might learn something."

"If it would make Bill happy, I would give him the money."

Hello Yerlan,

The modal verbs will and would can be used in if-clauses when we are talking about a person's willingness to do something. For example:

If you give John the money, he will be happy.

if you give John describes an event which may or may not happen

If you will give John the money, he will be happy.

if you will give John describes an event which you may or may not agree to; it means something like if you agree to give John or if you are willing to give John.

 

The use of would is similar. It can be a more polite form or it may imply a little more scepticism on the part of the speaker.

 

You can read more about this topic here:

https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/61299/if-i-go-vs-if-i-will-go-referring-to-the-future/61308#61308

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter!

In reference to my earlier comment. So, I meant by those sentences that if I hadn't left to study abroad, I wouldn't have known how I will get along there. Does it make sense?

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