Conditional sentences are sometimes confusing for learners of English as a second language.   Leave a comment

 

Conditional sentences

Conditional sentences are sometimes confusing for learners of English as a second language.

Watch out:

  1. Which type of conditional sentences is it?
  2. Where is the if-clause (e.g. at the beginning or at the end of the conditional sentence)?

There are three types of conditional sentences.

type condition
I condition possible to fulfill
II condition in theory possible to fulfill
III condition not possible to fulfill (too late)

1. Form

type if-clause main clause
I Simple Present will-future or (Modal + infinitive)
II Simple Past would + infinitive *
III Past Perfect would + have + past participle *

2. Examples (if-clause at the beginning)

type if clause main clause
I If I study, I will pass the exam.
II If I studied, I would pass the exam.
III If I had studied, I would have passed the exam.

3. Examples (if-clause at the end)

type main clause if-clause
I I will pass the exam if I study.
II I would pass the exam if I studied.
III I would have passed the exam if I had studied.

4. Examples (affirmative and negative sentences)

type Examples
long forms short/contracted forms
I + If I study, I will pass the exam. If I study, I‘ll pass the exam.
If I study, I will not fail the exam.
If I do not study, I will fail the exam.
If I study, I won’t fail the exam.
If I don’t study, I‘ll fail the exam.
II + If I studied, I would pass the exam. If I studied, I‘d pass the exam.
If I studied, I would not fail the exam.
If I did not study, I would fail the exam.
If I studied, I wouldn’t fail the exam.
If I didn’t study, I‘d fail the exam.
III + If I had studied, I would have passed the exam. If I‘d studied, I‘d have passed the exam.
If I had studied, I would not have failed the exam.
If I had not studied, I would have failed the exam.
If I‘d studied, I wouldn’t have failed the exam.
If I hadn’t studied, I‘d have failed the exam.

* We can substitute could or might for would (should, may or must are sometimes possible, too).

  • I would pass the exam.
  • I could pass the exam.
  • I might pass the exam.
  • I may pass the exam.
  • I should pass the exam.
  • I must pass the exam.

 

How conditional sentences are mixed

Unreal conditionals (type II + III) sometimes can be mixed, that is, the time of the if clause is different from the one of the main clause.

1. Past → Present

  • If I had taken an aspirin, I wouldn’t have a headache now.

2. Past → Future

  • If I had known that you are going to come by tomorrow, I would be in then.

3. Present → Past

  • If she had enough money, she could have done this trip to Hawaii.

4. Present → Future

  • If I were you, I would be spending my vacation in Seattle.

5. Future → Past

  • If I weren’t flying to Detroit, I would have planned a trip to Vancouver.

6. Future → Present

  • If I were taking this exam next week, I would be high-strung.

 

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