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. Sir, what is the diff between these sentences
If you hear about my death
If you heard about my death

I'd appreciate a reply. Thank you

Hello Jamee999,

These are examples of conditional forms. The first sentence is a part of a conditional which refers to a likely or possible event - the speaker thinks that hearing about his or her death is a real possibility. The second is about an unlikely or purely hypothetical event - the speaker does not expect or believe that hearing about his or her death is going to happen.

You can read more about these forms on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello
Can we use "If you did your homework you would know the answer." instead
"If you had done your homework you would know the answer."

Hello sedsed,

That is a correct sentence, grammatically, but it has a different meaning.

The original sentence describes a concrete event in the past and a present result.

The alternative sentence describes either a general state (the person never does their homework) or an unlikely future (the person is not likely to do their homework, but if they did then...).

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Sir
What is the difference between
I'm going to read a lot while I'm on holiday.
And l will read a lot while I'm on holiday.
Thank you

Hello sunrisereham,

There are several uses for 'will' and 'going to' and you can find them on our page on future forms. Please take a look at the information there and I'm sure you will see the difference.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Sir
But I'm just confused about using while because I know it is sometimes it means during and sometimes it means when
so when I say I'm going to read a lot while I'm on holiday. while here it means during
And I will read a lot while I'm on holiday. While here it means When is that correct
Or the difference depends on using Will and going to in the Future
Thank you, Sir

Hello sunrisereham,

In both of the sentences you wrote, both 'while' and 'when' could be used. Have you looked up these different words ('while', 'during' etc.) in the dictionary? I'd recommend studying how they are used in the example of sentences. Often, this clears up how they are used. 'when' in particular is used in so many ways, it could be confusing to use it as a definition for another word (like 'while'). 

I'm not sure if this will help you; if not, please ask again – the more specific your question, the better.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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