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

Hello again,
'I’ll come home when I finish work'- if I change this example for
' I’ll come home when I have finished work', - would the sentence change the meaning in any way,or would emphasise(imply) another point?

I got it, thanks a lot Kirk.

Hello Slava,

No, there's no difference in meaning and both are correct. The present perfect form puts more emphasis on work being finished, but this kind of emphasis is a bit redundant here. 

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Mr Peter M,

Now I understand , thank you very much.

Best wishes

Dear Mr Kirk,
I don't understand this sentence : Whenever I feel a bit down, I think of Paris.
Best wishes

Hello medmomo,

I'm not sure which part of the sentence is unclear for you. 'Feel a bit down' means 'feel a little sad', so the speaker is saying that when they feel sad they think of Paris, which presumably is a happy memory for them and makes them feel better.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello
let's say in 2010 I did not get a job I applied for ,so I did not live in Paris but I could have lived there for 6 yrs there from 2010 to 2016 .
Is it correctly expressed by this sentence below ?
If I had got the job in 2010 in Paris I would have lived there since then until 2016

Hello Tad90,

You've used the third conditional structure correctly to express what you describe, so good work on that count. I'd recommend, however, that you say 'in Paris in 2010' instead of 'in 2010 in Paris' (normally prepositional phrases of location come before prepositional phrases of time) and that you say 'from then' instead of 'since then'. But even without these changes, your sentence makes perfect sense -- it will just sound a bit more natural with these changes.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Hi!
Which one is correct?
At the time my favourite TV program is on, I will be doing my home assignment.
Or
At the time my favourite TV program is on, I will have done my home assignment.

Hello katichka2003,

Both sentences are possible. The first strikes me as more likely but the second is not incorrect. Of course, there is a difference in meaning.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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