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.|