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 everybody
 

 Hello there!!
I have a questinon about something I've read. In "if" clauses you should use the form "were" with I and not "was" when you are writing to be gramaticaly correct. But you can use the form "was" in everyday conversation. Is it true? I think is good to know that for use it in a test... 
Thanks!!!

Hello Jose,
That's a very good question and your understanding is more or less correct. Before we go on, one important thing to realise is that there is no official and correct form of English. You are in Spain, where most people speak Castilian Spanish. This language is regulated by the Real Academia Española and similar bodies regulate many other languages. English doesn't have an official regulator, so different people have different opinions about what is correct English.
The form you are talking about is the subjunctive mood. It has nearly vanished from English, but there are traces of it and one of the places you can still find it is in 'to be' in the second conditional. Some people consider it more correct to use 'were', as you say, but others consider it old-fashioned. Others use it only in formal situations.
So there is no right or wrong answer to whether you should you 'were', but at least now you know why there is no right or wrong answer!
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

How interesting exercises!!! Congratulations for all the team, and Thanks!!

 
this program is so wonderful and amazing valuable, for those gays seeking for gain of education.
 

what about the sentence: I will ring you as soon as I arrive/will arrive. in activity 1.  Why the correct answer is I will ring you as soon as I will arrive. As mentioned above, in time clauses, we should use present instead of future. Is this answer incorrect or do I misunderstand?
 

Hello Zhao Wei,
Once again, you are perfectly right and I'm glad you pointed it out. Yes, that's a mistake in the exercise which I have now fixed.
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

learners, how r u all?

hi,everybody.
i'm a new member .this site is very interesting.....

Hellow happiness!
Nice to see you! everybody in this English forum.

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