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 there,

I understand that with 'when', 'as soon as' 'until' etc... we can use any present tense, however i am finding it difficult to adapt this rule to a verb in the present continuous. For example:
Until you go to the shop....
Until you've gone to the shop...
BUT
Until you are going to the shop... (this sounds wrong to me)

If the rules are that you can use any present tense after 'when', 'until' etc.. how can a non native English person know which is the correct present tense to use?

Thanks in advance!
Reyne :)

Hi r-defazio,

Yes, using the present continuous after 'until' would be unusual. As long as the time referred to is clear from the rest of the sentence, in the subordindate clause, a simple form (i.e. present simple instead of present continuous) is used instead of the present continuous. So, for example, 'You can't ride your bicycle until you go to the shop'.

Does that answer your question?

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thanks for your reply. I'm still struggling a little in helping my students understand why we use choose the present tense we choose in a 'when' phrase. For example;
"you can go out and play when you have finished your dinner" (first you finish, then you can go)
"you can go out and play when you finish your dinner" (first you finish, then you can go)
BUT
"you can go out and play when you are finishing eating" IS WRONG
BUT
"i'll be home when you are finishing your dinner" IS CORRECT

So, i guess the meaning of the phrase needs to be understood, in order to know which present tense fits best!

Would you agree... Or am I totally off the track?

Thanks again!!
Reyne :)

Hi Reyne,

Yes, I can appreciate that this is difficult, but you've approached it in the right way. Really, 'you can go out and play when you are finishing eating' is grammatically possible (I imagine a 5-year-old boy running out the door towards his favourite climbing tree, taking a bit from a piece of bread); the meaning is just unusual, and that's why we consider it wrong, but really it is not.

As you say, the verb form we need to use is determined by the meaning we want to express.

Keep up the good work!

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk!!

Thanks so much for your encouragement! I want to be able to provide my students with the most correct and concise answers, but sometimes I just have to say "guys, i'll have to get back to you on that one"....... Then jump on this super helpful site!

Until next time!

Reyne!!

Aren't both of the following correct when used in future and past respectively?
1)She might be more amenable to the idea if you explained how much money it would save.
2)She might be more amenable to the idea if you HAD explained how much money it would save.

Hi Andhrite,

Both of your sentences are correct, but have different meanings. 1 implies that you could still explain how much money could be saved, whereas 2 implies that you missed an opportunity to explain that to her in the past.

Is that what you mean?

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I want from you to give me the answer of this exercice.
Question:rewrite the following sentences starting with the given words?
A) I'll never go out with you.
Never....................................
B) These illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat strokes.
Heat cramps, .....................................................................................................
C) I didn't go out yesterday. It was raining.
If it ................................................................

Hello alifakhreddine,

I'm not sure where this exercise is from but I'm afraid we don't offer a service of doing homework or tests for our members! If we did, then we'd have no time for anything else! We're happy to answer questions on our own material, however, so please ask if you have any questions on that.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, it is an archive of an exam put by civil service
Board in lebanon to choose employees in the government
There is new jobs required there and i have to solve
Old exams to do better. By the way i understand your
Procedures. Thank you for your cooperation

Pages