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

MultipleChoice_MTY0Njc=

Future time and conditional clauses 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0Njg=

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

Matching_MTY0Njk=

Hypothetical conditionals: present/future 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0NzA=

Hypothetical conditionals: past 1

Matching_MTY0NzE=

Hypothetical conditionals: past 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0NzI=

Comments

Hello sherleen_tan,

The phrase 'have had' is a normal present perfect form. The present perfect is formed with the auxiliary (helper) verb 'has' or 'have' plus the past participle (third form). For example:

look > present perfect 'have looked' or 'has looked'

give > present perfect 'have given' or 'has given'

have > present perfect 'have had' or 'has had'

You can read more about the present perfect and how it is used on this page.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Could you please explain the different meanings in each of these pair of sentences please:

1. He talks as if he knew everything. V.s.
2. He talked as if he knew everything.

3. He looks as if he hadn't had food. V.s.
4.He looked as if he hadn't had food

Also why don't we shift the tense "knew" to "had known" in sentence 2 as this sentence is clearly an unreal past situation ( indicated by verb "talked")

In sentence 3, "hadn't had food" indicated this is unreal past but why do we use present tense "talks" instead of "talked"?

Thank you

Sir can you tell me if we could make some sentences like this or not. spose that something that I didn't want to do with you but I did due to some bad circumstances. so can I apologize you saying, I wish I had not had to do with you and another sentence like this I wish I had not had to run away from there.

Hello SonuKumar,

'I wish I had not had to do that with you' and 'I wish I had not had to run away from there' are both grammatically correct and express regret over actions that you carried out but wish you hadn't. Good work!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi!

I ______ to him about it when we meet.
incorrect: talk correct: will talk

I will call you immediately when I ______.
correct: arrive incorrect: will arrive

I'll speak to him about it when I ______ him.
correct: see incorrect: will see

I answered for these questions wrongly :(.
I think I have a problem with distinguishing which one is an offer and should come with "will" and which is not. Am I missing something obvious here?

Hello Jarek,

These sentences all have a time clause (beginning with 'when') that refers to the future. In sentences like these, the verb inside the time clause (i.e. the first verb after the word 'when') goes in the present simple, and the other verb goes in the 'will' form. So the key is to use 'will' in the main clause and present simple in the time clause (the one that begins with 'when' or whatever other adverbial).

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thank you, I need a little bit more of your help:

"We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:
I’ll come home when I finish work.
We won’t be able to go out if it will rain.
(...)"

"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."

So I understand that the exception for using double will in a sentence is only when it contains "if" not a time word like when etc...?

Hello again Jarek,

I'm sorry – I hadn't completely understood your question, but now I think I do. 'will' is not used in time clauses (e.g. with 'when', 'until', etc.) and generally not used in 'if' clauses. There are a few exceptions to this general rule: 'will' can be used in an 'if' clause in certain situations. These situations are explained in detail with examples on this BBC page. Please take a look, and if you have any other questions, please do let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Kink. You refreshed my memory. I know mass noun are used also with singular or plural, for instance: the family/army have got.... First, I wonder how was possible that British Council to have mistakes? Now, I'm released.

If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions. Shouldn't be winS?

Pages