Verbs in time clauses and conditionals follow the same patterns as in other clauses except:

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

We won’t be able to go out if it is raining.
If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions.
I will come tomorrow unless I have to look after the children.

  • We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:

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

  • 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.


"if" clauses and hypotheses

Some clauses with if are like hypotheses so we use past tense forms to talk about the present and future.

We use the past tense forms to talk about the present in clauses with if :

  • for something that has not happened or is not happening:
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 the past tense forms to talk about the future in clauses with if:

  • for something that we believe or know will not happen:

 

We would go by train if it wasn’t so expensive  = We won’t 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 can’t look after the children because I will not be at home.

 

  •  to make suggestions about what might happen:

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

When we are talking about something which did not happen in the past we use the past perfect in the if clause and a modal verb in the main clause:

 

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 couldn’t stay with us because you didn’t come to London.
If we hadn’t spent all our money we could take a holiday.  = We have spent all our money so we can’t 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 is about the past we use a modal with have

 

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 couldn’t stay with us because you didn’t come to London.
If you had invited me I might have come.  = You didn’t invite me so I didn’t come.

 

If the main clause is about the present we use a present tense form or a modal without have:

 

If I had got the job we would 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.

 

 

Exercise

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

Hi team
What's the difference between
we would go by train if it was not so expensive.
We would go by train if it were not so expensive.
I am really confused when to use were instead of was.

Hello sonss,

There is no difference in meaning. In traditional grammars, 'were' (a subjunctive form) was always used in a second conditional sentence, but nowadays both 'were' is commonly accepted for all persons and 'was' is also accepted for first and third person singular subjects (e.g. 'I', 'she', etc.). If you want to sound a bit more formal, I'd recommend 'were'; otherwise you can use either one.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

if i HAVE HAD money,i would have bought new car
a.had b.had had
which one is correct?

Hello guddeti sahasra,

'had had' is the correct form here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

can we use modal verbs like can ,will,may.....in subordinate clause of if conditionals
eg;if you can do this it will be helpful to me

Hello guddeti sahasra,

Yes, that is fine. The modal verbs most commonly used in the if-clause are can and could, used to make polite requests. Other modals are possible, but are less common ('If I might...', 'If I may...)

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir, i'm quite confused of under what kind of situation to use "have had". Like the example given above is: They are coming after they have had dinner.
Can i say: They are coming after they have the dinner.

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.

Pages