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

If you'd followed the recipe the cake wouldn't be such a disaster.
WHY not: If you'd followed the recipe the cake wouldn't have been such a disaster (III conditional)

Hello Srdjan,

Yes, the third conditional sentence is also correct. The difference between the mixed conditional ('wouldn't be') and the third conditional sentence ('wouldn't have been') is that the mixed conditional can refer to a cake that still exists -- perhaps you can see it on a plate in front of you -- whereas the third conditional is talking about a past time. It could also be that the plate still exists now, but not necessarily.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

What would this comment be classified as?

"If you don't give a little of those yourself, you can't really expect to get it back."

What does it mean?

Hello Euterpe001,

This could refer to a single situation or have a more general meaning, depending on the context. In terms of form it is an example of what is sometimes called a first conditional. These are generally presented as having 'will' in the result clause but in fact can have other modal verbs instead, such as 'can' as in this example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

If referring to particular situation does this not appearing that the comment is making an assumption about the person they are talking to?

Hello Euterpe001,

There may be an assumption here but wthout knowing the context it is impossible to say. For example, it could be that a person has not been putting enough of themseleves into a particular task or effort and this sentence is intended as a criticism or as advice for them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

what are modal verbs generally used in unreal conditionals except would,could,might

what is the difference between past real conditional and past unreal conditionals.
eg: if t had time i studied english
if had had time i would have studied english
both sentences giving the same meaning
please explain this.

Hello guddeti sahasra,

The difference is exactly what the name suggests: one describes a situation which really happened and the other describes an imaginary situation in the past.

If I had time I studied English.

The meaning here is that sometimes the speaker had time and sometimes they did not; when they had time they studied English.

If I had had time I would have studied English.

The meaning here is that the speaker did not have time, but is imagining an alternative past in which they had time.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

can we use past continuous with if clauses to speak in present
eg; ih she were coming, she would be here by now
if i was still working in london i would buy a car

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