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, I want to find out about these English grammar structures: "as if", "as though", and "would rather". Hope you could provide me necessary info about them, thanks in advance!

Hi Anh Quân Chu,

Both as if and as though are typically used to express how we view a situation, including when we know the situation isn't true. For example, "It looks as if (or as though) the sun is going to come out" means that we think the sun will come out. If you say, "You look as if you'd seen a ghost!", it could mean that you really think the person saw a ghost, or it could be that you think it's not really true, but that you're just describing how frightened someone looks.

would rather is explained on the will or would page - see near the bottom, in the last section.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Oh thanks Kirk for useful information, but I thought they could be more complicated. I had read grammar books and they wrote that there are some rules of these structures "as if" and "as though", and ''would rather'', but demonstrations are vague. I'd like to know the rules of the 2nd phrase after ''as if'' ''as though'' and ''would rather'', can you explain? If my English is too wrong and you can't understand my question, please tell me I will try to write back to you.

Best wishes,

Quan.

Hi Quan,

I'm afraid I can't go into great detail about this, as our primary role here is to help users make use of the site and we are too few with too much work to be able to give detailed explanations of such points.

But I can say that 'as though' and 'as if' can both be followed by present or past tenses to speak about the present. The present indicates that you think your supposition is probably true (e.g. 'She looks as if she's ill.') and the past indicates you think it's probably not true (e.g. 'She looks as though she was ill.') 'would rather' can be followed by the infinitive without 'to' (e.g. 'I'd rather go to the mountains than to the beach.') or with a subject and a past tense (e.g. 'I'd rather she didn't come to the party.').

By the way, your English is very good and perfectly comprehensible!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Well thank you for the compliment as well as the general grammatical explanation. You could just simply send me the links.
I might help more English questions for you in the future, hope you don't mind answer them.

Regards,
Quan.

Hi Quan,

Yes, of course, we'd be happy to help you with other questions! I was just trying to explain why I couldn't give lengthy explanations of those points.

We look forward to hearing from you again!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hi.i don't understand verb in time clause.Can do you speak more than the eg above.?

Hi nghiabkhn,

That's a very general question and so it's hard for me to give a specific answer.  Could you perhaps provide a concrete example of a sentence which you find confusing, and then we'll be happy to try to help you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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