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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

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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

that is so nie
 

hello everybody
 

 Hello there!!
I have a questinon about something I've read. In "if" clauses you should use the form "were" with I and not "was" when you are writing to be gramaticaly correct. But you can use the form "was" in everyday conversation. Is it true? I think is good to know that for use it in a test... 
Thanks!!!

Hello Jose,
That's a very good question and your understanding is more or less correct. Before we go on, one important thing to realise is that there is no official and correct form of English. You are in Spain, where most people speak Castilian Spanish. This language is regulated by the Real Academia Española and similar bodies regulate many other languages. English doesn't have an official regulator, so different people have different opinions about what is correct English.
The form you are talking about is the subjunctive mood. It has nearly vanished from English, but there are traces of it and one of the places you can still find it is in 'to be' in the second conditional. Some people consider it more correct to use 'were', as you say, but others consider it old-fashioned. Others use it only in formal situations.
So there is no right or wrong answer to whether you should you 'were', but at least now you know why there is no right or wrong answer!
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

How interesting exercises!!! Congratulations for all the team, and Thanks!!

 
this program is so wonderful and amazing valuable, for those gays seeking for gain of education.
 

what about the sentence: I will ring you as soon as I arrive/will arrive. in activity 1.  Why the correct answer is I will ring you as soon as I will arrive. As mentioned above, in time clauses, we should use present instead of future. Is this answer incorrect or do I misunderstand?
 

Hello Zhao Wei,
Once again, you are perfectly right and I'm glad you pointed it out. Yes, that's a mistake in the exercise which I have now fixed.
Best wishes,
Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

learners, how r u all?

hi,everybody.
i'm a new member .this site is very interesting.....

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