verbs in time clauses and if clauses

 

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 you 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

Comments

Hi Peter
My understanding is that in zero conditional there is an element of generality and also an element of certainty. However, we use first conditional to introduce an element of probability. For example we say
If you water plants, they grow.  -- certainty
If you water that plant, it will grow - probability
In general statements we can afford to introduce an element of certainty. But in specific cases the statement may be probably true or may not be true. That is we accommodate for instances or exceptions when the general statements may fail.
Thanks and Regards
Veeraraghavan
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hi Veeraraghavan,

A rule of thumb, I think that's a reasonable summary.  Of course, it's possible to think of specific situations where there is certainty (e.g. 'If you tease him in the morning he gets angry'), and specific situations where there is a good degree of certainty (e.g. 'If the plant doesn't get any water, it will die'), but the general line you are taking is correct and is a useful way to think about it.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,
For the following example
A : Do you know where the nearest bank is?
B : Yes. If you turn right at the traffic lights, you will see on your left.
I wonder why we can't answer you see (Type 0) instead of you will see (type 1) because i think it is something that is always true (type 0) than possible situation (type 1). Could you please clarify this for me? I really confuse about type 0 ( which is not law of nature, in this case it is easily to classify.) and type 1.
Thank you for your reply

Hello supamas,
This is an interesting question which I haven't thought about before - thank you.  
The first thing to note is that with functional language (such as giving directions) there are often conventions which grow up over time which do not necessarily fit traditional grammar or vocabulary rules.  An example is the fact that we can say 'go up the road' and 'go down the road' with exactly the same meaning!  
However, here I think there is a grammatical reason for the use of the 'will' form.  The zero conditional structure is used, as you say, for things that are always true, but it also usually carries a sense of generality - something that is true of things in general.  For example, if I say
'If you water plants, they grow'
then I am talking about plants in general - all plants, not a specific plant.  If I am talking about a specific plant then I am much more likely to use a first conditional structure:
'If you water that plant, it will grow'.
In your example, you are not talking about all traffic lights but a particular set, and so a first conditional form is more likely.  That's not to say the alternative is wrong, but it would be less likely in standard use.
 
I hope that answers your question.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

I've heard that there's a several usage of archaic subjunctive expression in modern English, like 'go where he will, he will be hailed' or 'let him go where he will, he will be hailed'.. etc. I'm EFL student, and so, recently, I'm having a great trouble in scrutinizing those sentences. So could you change some archaic subjunctive sentences into modern subjunctive sentences?? like       suffice it to say     ---->               it suffice to say                                                   here are the sentences;so be it(and also, be it so), let him go where he will, he will be hailed., albeit(which is an abbreviated form of 'although be it'), and be that as it may. Well, as for the last expression, some people say it's an inverted sentence of 'as it may be that', where 'as' is used as 'though', and other people say it's inverted sentence for, as it were, 'archaic subjunctive'. To see native speakers refer to them as 'fixed expression', it seems like I've got to just use all of them as an idiom, but I sort of obsessed, so I'm going to wait your acumen.

Hello alyuuv,
I appreciate your interest and I think it's good to see someone so motivated!  However, for detailed answers to your questions I think you need to ask your teacher.  We're a small team here on LearnEnglish and we have to deal with many questions every day, so it's just not possible for us to go into such detail.  
I will make one point which is relevant here.  It is not only native speakers who describe certain phrases as 'fixed expressions'.  It is a well-understood and accepted term in linguistic study and an important concept.  For example, 'suffice (it) to say' is archaic in structure, but is perfectly acceptable in modern use.  Your 'modern' version ('it suffice to say') would be immediately recognisable as a non-standard form - it would stand out as odd or clumsy.  In other words, 'fixed expressions' exist and, generally speaking, trying to change them, even with the intention of modernising them, tends to result in unnatural and inelegant language.
I hope that helps to clarify the issue for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Greetings,
I was asked by a fellow Vietnamese teacher to listen to an audio recording and then provide the conversation in written form. I replied by email and wrote in present tense:
 
The recording is very long and I don't have that much free time, but if there are
any words in the recording that you can't understand send me the time that they are played at and I will supply them for you.
For example at 05:41 in the recording he says "shoot my mouth off"
 
My question is, have I made a mistake by saying ...are played at...?
Of course played is past tense, but to me it sounds correct.
Thanks in advance for your help.
 
 

Hello lexeus,
You are quite right to use this form.  However, it is not in fact a past tense, but a past participle which is used as part of a present simple passive verb form:
passive forms are made with be + past participle
here we have are played
I hope that clarifies it for you.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

I think you are not going to reply to my message so I won't post any comment anymore.
Thank you.

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