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

I've doubts for the last point,
"If the main clause is about the present we use a present tense form or a modal without have:" stated in this article.

How do you use present tense form in main clause for "If" clause (did not happen in the past)?

Hello CareBears07,

We can use if-clauses about the past to talk about real and unreal situations. Compare the following:

If you had done your homework, you would know the answers.

Here you did not do your homework (unreal past) and you do not know the answers (unreal present).

 

If you did your homework, you know the answers.

Here you did the homework (real past) and you know the answers (real present). The verb in the main clause here is a present form.

 

A context for these sentences might be a teacher talking to a student. The first sentence would be used if the student did not do the homework and the teacher is critical of the student. The second sentence would be used if the student did the homework and the teacher was trying to encourage the students, telling him or her that the exercise was not too difficult because the student had done the homework.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

If you'd followed the recipe the cake wouldn't be such a disaster.
WHY not: If you'd followed the recipe the cake wouldn't have been such a disaster (III conditional)

Hello Srdjan,

Yes, the third conditional sentence is also correct. The difference between the mixed conditional ('wouldn't be') and the third conditional sentence ('wouldn't have been') is that the mixed conditional can refer to a cake that still exists -- perhaps you can see it on a plate in front of you -- whereas the third conditional is talking about a past time. It could also be that the plate still exists now, but not necessarily.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

What would this comment be classified as?

"If you don't give a little of those yourself, you can't really expect to get it back."

What does it mean?

haven't you made a mistake in ur sentence ?
If one say : " if you don't give a little of yourself to others ,you can't really expect to get it back",likely
it is an advice and it means that you do not give anything to anyone thus you get nothing from the one/s

Hello Euterpe001,

This could refer to a single situation or have a more general meaning, depending on the context. In terms of form it is an example of what is sometimes called a first conditional. These are generally presented as having 'will' in the result clause but in fact can have other modal verbs instead, such as 'can' as in this example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

If referring to particular situation does this not appearing that the comment is making an assumption about the person they are talking to?

Hello Euterpe001,

There may be an assumption here but wthout knowing the context it is impossible to say. For example, it could be that a person has not been putting enough of themseleves into a particular task or effort and this sentence is intended as a criticism or as advice for them.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

what are modal verbs generally used in unreal conditionals except would,could,might

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