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 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

Comments

please which of these statement is correct: The engine was tested to see if it works or the engine was tested to see if it worked?

Hello loanky,

Both of those are possible. The first one ('works') makes it clear that the speaker is talking about the engine's state now; the second ('worked') may be about the present, but may be only about the past. Compare:

I asked if she loves me. [if her love is true now]

I asked if she loved me. [if her love was true then; it does not tell us about now]

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi

i can read and understand but i don't known that's why i can not speak well . it is seems to be not talk to with someone earlier so i would like to talk to someone .

Hello vishak,

There's some advice on improving your speaking on our Help page that I think could help you. It's a great idea to speak with someone to improve, but I'm afraid that our House Rules, which are designed to protect users, prohibit the sharing of the kind of personal information you would need to contact another user to speak.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

For the first examples, can I use 'had dinner' instead 'have had dinner '?

Hello ghc1997,

No, that's not possible. 'Had dinner' is a past form and this is not possible in the second half of this example as the first part of the sentence has a present form.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In line 14
(You must wait here until you father will come comes.)
I think the letter (r) is missing.

Hi semsem123,

That's correct, and this error is now fixed. Thanks very much for helping us to improve the site!

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

You are doing a great job. I'm happy to help and thanks for quick response.

We won’t be able to go out if it is raining.
In this which is the main verb 'be' or 'able'
i'm confused please answer

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