Level: beginner

Verbs in time clauses and conditionals usually follow the same patterns as in other clauses but there are some differences when we:

  • talk about the future
  • make hypotheses.

Talking about the future

In time clauses with words like when, after and until, we often use 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 words like if, unless, even if, we often use present tense forms to talk about the future:

We won't be able to go out if it is raining.
I will come tomorrow unless I have to look after the children.
Even if Barcelona lose tomorrow, they will still be champions.

We do not normally use will in time clauses and conditional clauses:

I'll come home when I finish work. (NOT will finish work)
We won't be able to go out if it rains. (NOT will rain)
It will be nice to see Peter when he gets home. (NOT will get home)
You must wait here until you father comes. (NOT will come)

but we can use will if it means want to or be willing to:

I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us.

Future time and conditional clauses 1

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Future time and conditional clauses 2

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Level: intermediate

Making hypotheses

Some conditional clauses are like hypotheses, so we use past tense forms.

We use past tense forms to talk about something that does not happen or is not happening in the present:

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 past tense forms to talk about something that we believe or know will not happen in the future:

We would go by train if it wasn't so expensive.
       (= We will not 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 cannot look after the children because I will not be at home.)

We use past tense forms to make suggestions about what might happen in the future:

If he came tomorrow, we could borrow his car.
If we invited John, Mary would bring Angela.

After I/he/she/it, we can use were instead of was:

If Jack was/were playing, they would probably win.
We would go by train if it wasn't/weren’t so expensive.
I would look after the children for you at the weekend if I was/were at home.

We use the past perfect to talk about something which did not happen in the past:

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 could not stay with us because you did not come to London.)
If we hadn't spent all our money, we could take a holiday.
        (= We have spent all our money so we cannot 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 of a hypothetical conditional is about the present or future, we use a modal:

If I had got the job, we might 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.)

If the main clause is about the past, we use a modal with have

If I had seen him, I would have spoken to him.
       (= I did not see him so I did not speak to him.)
You could have stayed with us if you had come to London.
       (= You could not stay with us because you did not come to London.)
If you had invited me, I might have come.
       (= You did not invite me so I did not come.)

Hypothetical conditionals: present/future 1

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Hypothetical conditionals: present/future 2

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Hypothetical conditionals: past 1

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Hypothetical conditionals: past 2

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Comments

hello everybody
 

that is so nie
 

It is difficult to understand the meaning of this sentence. They are coming after they have had dinner. Please tail me the meaning of this sentence. Here both  have and had use.

Hello.
I wonder why the sentence "if you'd followed the recipe, the cake wouldn't be such a disaster" contains "wouldn't be..." in the second clause instead of "wouldn't have been...". 
As far as I can see, the sentence is a typical example of the so-called third type of conditional sentences, where the perfect infinitive should be used with the modal, isn't it?... Perhaps I got something wrong.
Thank you in advance!

Hello Weaver,
Teachers talk about the 'first conditional' and the 'third conditional', but these are just ways to explain common patterns in grammar. In fact, there are many more ways to make sentences with 'if' and that's what this page is about.
The reason the speaker says 'the cake wouldn't be such a disaster' is that s/he is talking about an imaginary situation in the present. The cake is a disaster, so s/he is imagining that the cake is OK because the other person followed the recipe.
So 'wouldn't be' is the best way to express this idea. It's the same as when we say 'If you were here with me, I would be very happy.' That's also talking about an imaginary situation in the present, so 'would be' is the best choice of verb form.
Does that help?
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

Many thanks to you, Adam, for your explanation! It is quite clear and helpful. Furthermore, it's made me think more about the conditionals, patterns, and mixed types... That's one more reason to thank you again as well as thank all the members of the LearnEnglish Team for such a good opportunity to improve English skills :)
Regards,
Dmitry (Weaver)   

"They are coming after they have had dinner." Does it mean They are coming after having dinner... ?

Thanks AdamJK. That was the best way to explain 'would' form.

Hello,everybody.I am new here And I just want to improve my English conversation by having meet new friends here.Could anyone help me by replying me.Thanks in advance to those people helping me here.

Is there any LearnEnglishteam member who can hear me? I asked a question but Nobody is anwering....
"They are coming after they have had dinner." Does it mean They are coming after having dinner... ?

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