You are here

Verbs in time clauses and 'if' clauses

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

Hi Kiran,

'Would' in your first example does not describe probability, but a hypothetical possibility and requires a condition of some kind: 'I'd be dead by 2050... if something happened'. For example:

I'd be dead by 2050 if I didn't change my diet.

I'd be dead by 2050 if I didn't have a good doctor.

'Might' describes probability.

In your second example there is a hidden or unstated condition. The 'full' sentence might be:

An expansion of hospital due to be completed in 2020 would provide 170 more beds if it were ready now.

'Will' makes it more certain and the sentence would then describe a real situation rather than an imaginary one. For example:

An expansion of hospital due to be completed in 2020 will provide 170 more beds when it is ready.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

please which of these statement is correct: The engine was tested to see if it works or the engine was tested to see if it worked?

Hello loanky,

Both of those are possible. The first one ('works') makes it clear that the speaker is talking about the engine's state now; the second ('worked') may be about the present, but may be only about the past. Compare:

I asked if she loves me. [if her love is true now]

I asked if she loved me. [if her love was true then; it does not tell us about now]

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi

i can read and understand but i don't known that's why i can not speak well . it is seems to be not talk to with someone earlier so i would like to talk to someone .

Hello vishak,

There's some advice on improving your speaking on our Help page that I think could help you. It's a great idea to speak with someone to improve, but I'm afraid that our House Rules, which are designed to protect users, prohibit the sharing of the kind of personal information you would need to contact another user to speak.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

For the first examples, can I use 'had dinner' instead 'have had dinner '?

Hello ghc1997,

No, that's not possible. 'Had dinner' is a past form and this is not possible in the second half of this example as the first part of the sentence has a present form.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

In line 14
(You must wait here until you father will come comes.)
I think the letter (r) is missing.

Hi semsem123,

That's correct, and this error is now fixed. Thanks very much for helping us to improve the site!

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

You are doing a great job. I'm happy to help and thanks for quick response.

Pages