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!
Reading G. K. Chesterton's book: "A Short History of England", in chapter 6, it says:

"And if it be suggested that a note on such Oriental origins is rather remote from history of England..."

Is "BE" correct? Shouldn't it say "And if it was suggested..."?

Thanks for your excellent and helpful job!

Hello Luis_Ar,

This is an old form which is rarely no longer used in modern English. It is an example of the subjunctive form. In modern English after 'if' we use a normal past or present verb form, so here we would say '...if it is suggested...' or '...if it were suggested...'

The subjunctive in modern English is used after certain verbs. For example:

I suggest that he go.

I insist that you stay.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Sir
What is the difference between
If I was there and
If I were there

The difference is that one is correct (if I were there) and the other one is wrong (if I was there). In both you try to say the same idea (a wish or conditional situation). e.g. if I were there, I'd be enjoying the party.

With If when it is past form of verb like were, , it means something imagine.but indicates present situation.

Hello neh7272,

I already answered this same question on the page you asked it on. Please be sure to check for our answers and please do not repeat questions on different pages – they will not be published in future.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir/madam
I have got a doubt.
Is there any different meaning between word "Regarding and about "?
Which situation we can use them?could you please explain to me.

Dear John8888,

I'd recommend you look up both words in the dictionary – see the search box under Cambridge Dictionaries Online on the right – so that you can see examples of how they are used. 'regarding' is normally used in formal contexts and is rare in colloquial speech, whereas 'about' is common in most any kind of text.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there,
Sorry! I have two confusion which are as follows:

1. I'm just wondering about uses of "would" and "might" for future probability, for example-I'd be dead by 2050 and I might be dead by 2050. Are these interchangeable?. If yes, what are the differences?

2.If someone says " An expansion of hospital due to be completed in 2020 would provide 170 more beds". (Actually this was current news on Sydney morning herald http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/acute-patient-spends-24-hours-in-b...). What does it mean? Does it mean there is no guarantee of 170 bed ? If they had used "will" instead of "Would", would it make any differences on the meaning ?. In my understanding "will" is for definite future and "would" is for probability.

Please, help me on above regard, help would be appreciated.

Regards,
Kiran

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