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

pls , which is grammerly better
- Ask John cuz He will probably know the answer
or
- Ask John cuz He probably knows the answer
?!

Hello Dr.Ahmed.Hassan,

Both are quite correct and have very similar meanings. When we use 'will' in this context we are making a prediction or guess about the present; when we use 'knows' we are talking about what we know about the present, and the adverb 'probably' makes it also a guess.

If you remove the adverb then the difference in meaning is clearer:

Ask John because he will know the answer - a guess about the present


Ask John because he knows the answer - something we know for sure about the present

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

good evening to everyone, i was wondering if there was difference between these two following clauses: 1 ) finally i accomplished of passing the driving test or 2) finally i accomplished to pass the driving test.

thank you in advance

Hello rosario70,

Neither of those sentences is grammatically correct, I'm afraid. 'Accomplish' is followed by a direct object, not by a preposition or by an infinitive. We generally do not use gerunds after accomplish. In the context of a driving test we would be more likely to use 'managed to pass'. You might use 'accomplish' with a particular result, but not with a general pass/fail test.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi,

i want to ask a question about the topic. My question is from practise.

"If you'd followed the recipe, the cake wouldn't be such a disaster."

according to rules, i think second part of the sentence should be changed. ( the cake wouldn't have such a disaster)

am i wrong?

thanks

Hi hreker,

The original sentence is correct. It is an example of a mixed conditional:

If + past perfect... (then) + would + verb

The verb needed here is 'be', not 'have'. That is a lexical question, not a grammatical one.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

the rule states that 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 the main clause is about the past we use a modal with have. But If the main clause is about the present we use a present tense form or a modal without have.

Well, now how I know and distinguish between the main clause is about the past or the present in the following to apply the rule:

You could have stayed with us if you had come to London.
If you had done your homework you would know the answer.

Hello Ahmed,

I just wanted to point out our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages to you, which talk about much the same thing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk, it is really useful.

Regards,

She'd probably come if you asked her nicely.

I have doubt that ,is it she would or she had???
Is this event in present tense.? And if yes, then would it be incorrect 'if you ask her nicely.

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