Verbs in time clauses and conditionals follow the same patterns as in other clauses except:

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

We won’t be able to go out if it is raining.
If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions.
I will come tomorrow unless I have to look after the children.

  • We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:

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

  • but we can use will if it means a promise or offer:

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


"if" clauses and hypotheses

Some clauses with if are like hypotheses so we use past tense forms to talk about the present and future.

We use the past tense forms to talk about the present in clauses with if :

  • for something that has not happened or is not happening:
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 the past tense forms to talk about the future in clauses with if:

  • for something that we believe or know will not happen:

 

We would go by train if it wasn’t so expensive  = We won’t 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 can’t look after the children because I will not be at home.

 

  •  to make suggestions about what might happen:

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

When we are talking about something which did not happen in the past we use the past perfect in the if clause and a modal verb in the main clause:

 

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 couldn’t stay with us because you didn’t come to London.
If we hadn’t spent all our money we could take a holiday.  = We have spent all our money so we can’t 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 is about the past we use a modal with have

 

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 couldn’t stay with us because you didn’t come to London.
If you had invited me I might have come.  = You didn’t invite me so I didn’t come.

 

If the main clause is about the present we use a present tense form or a modal without have:

 

If I had got the job we would 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.

 

 

Exercise

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Sir can you tell me if we could make some sentences like this or not. spose that something that I didn't want to do with you but I did due to some bad circumstances. so can I apologize you saying, I wish I had not had to do with you and another sentence like this I wish I had not had to run away from there.

Hello SonuKumar,

'I wish I had not had to do that with you' and 'I wish I had not had to run away from there' are both grammatically correct and express regret over actions that you carried out but wish you hadn't. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi!

I ______ to him about it when we meet.
incorrect: talk correct: will talk

I will call you immediately when I ______.
correct: arrive incorrect: will arrive

I'll speak to him about it when I ______ him.
correct: see incorrect: will see

I answered for these questions wrongly :(.
I think I have a problem with distinguishing which one is an offer and should come with "will" and which is not. Am I missing something obvious here?

Hello Jarek,

These sentences all have a time clause (beginning with 'when') that refers to the future. In sentences like these, the verb inside the time clause (i.e. the first verb after the word 'when') goes in the present simple, and the other verb goes in the 'will' form. So the key is to use 'will' in the main clause and present simple in the time clause (the one that begins with 'when' or whatever other adverbial).

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thank you, I need a little bit more of your help:

"We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:
I’ll come home when I finish work.
We won’t be able to go out if it will rain.
(...)"

"but we can use will if it means a promise or offer:
I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us."

So I understand that the exception for using double will in a sentence is only when it contains "if" not a time word like when etc...?

Hello again Jarek,

I'm sorry – I hadn't completely understood your question, but now I think I do. 'will' is not used in time clauses (e.g. with 'when', 'until', etc.) and generally not used in 'if' clauses. There are a few exceptions to this general rule: 'will' can be used in an 'if' clause in certain situations. These situations are explained in detail with examples on this BBC page. Please take a look, and if you have any other questions, please do let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kink. You refreshed my memory. I know mass noun are used also with singular or plural, for instance: the family/army have got.... First, I wonder how was possible that British Council to have mistakes? Now, I'm released.

If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions. Shouldn't be winS?

Hello Mihernna,

In British English, singular nouns that refer to a group of people (such as 'Barcelona' for the Barcelona team) are often treated as if they are plural, which is why you can see or hear 'If Barcelona win ...'. It's also correct to say 'If Barcelona wins', though, so I'd encourage you to use whatever form you're more comfortable with.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

pls , which is grammerly better
- Ask John cuz He will probably know the answer
or
- Ask John cuz He probably knows the answer
?!

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