The conditional is used when a result depends on something else to happen first, when something else is required before a result can happen. There are 4 conditionals – a general, a future, a present, and a past. To learn this grammar, you need to memorize a pattern first. You will see this pattern in the examples below.
The general conditional:
This conditional is used when the same action always produces the same result.
The pattern in the present is: present simple or present continuous in the if (dependent) clause, and the present simple in the main (independent) clause.
Examples in the present:
If it is raining, I always take my umbrella. (Every time it rains, I take my umbrella.)
If it’s Tuesday, it’s my turn to make dinner. (I always make dinner on Tuesdays.)
If water freezes, it expands (This is a scientific fact, so it always happens.)
If she is going for a walk, she always takes her dog. (Every time she goes for a walk, she takes her dog.)
Examples in the past:
If I brought flowers to my wife, she was happy. (She was always happy when I brought her flowers.)
If she cheated on a test, she felt guilty. (Every time she cheated, she felt guilty.)
Note: All these examples can also use when in place of if (but then it’s no longer a conditional sentence.)
When it’s raining, I always take my umbrella.
When it’s Tuesday, it’s my turn to make dinner.
When I brought flowers to my wife, she was happy.
When she cheated on a test, she felt guilty.
The future conditional, also known as conditional I or the future possible:
This conditional is used when the result is a real possibility in the future.
The pattern is: simple present in the if clause, and one of the future tenses in the main clause. The future can be expressed by will, going to, the present continuous, or the future continuous.
If I win the lottery, I will travel around the world first class.
If Maria studies hard, she’s going to pass.
If we finish our project, we’re eating out tonight.
If he wins the game, he‘ll be celebrating all night.
In the main clause, in addition to will (and the other futures) you can also use can for ability, may for possibility, should for advice, and must (or have to) for necessity.
If I earn enough money this summer, I can travel to Europe in the fall. (I will have the ability to travel to Europe.)
If he drives all day, he may be too tired to go out with us. (There is the possibility that he will be tired.)
If Alicia’s tooth continues to hurt, she should see her dentist. (Advice for Alicia.)
If you see this missing girl anywhere, you must call the police immediately. (It is necessary to call the police if you see her.)
The present conditional, also known as conditional II or the present unreal:
This conditional is used for a result you can only imagine because the action that could produce that result is not real.
The pattern is: simple past in the if clause, and would + simple verb form in the main clause.
If I had more money, I would live in a better apartment. (But I don’t have more money.)
If they visited us more often, they would get to know us better. (But they don’t visit us very often.
If Peter stopped smoking, he would have more energy. (But Peter isn’t going to stop smoking.)
If he lost his wedding ring, his wife would never forgive him. (But he hasn’t lost his ring.)
In the main clause, in addition to would you can also use could for ability, might for possibility, should for advice and would have to for necessity.
If I got a second job, I could earn enough money to buy a car. (I will have the ability to earn enough money.)
If she started wearing makeup, she might look prettier. (There is a possibility of looking prettier.)
If Bryan hurt his knee, he should go to the nurse’s office. (Advice for Bryan.)
If we arrived late, we would have to report to the office before going to class. (When we were late, it was necessary to report to the office.)
Note: If the verb in the main clause is be, then was changes to were.
If I were you, I would tell him the truth.
If my father were here, he would know what to do.
If your boyfriend were serious, he would ask you to marry him.
One last thing about all these conditionals. In all the examples above, the If clause is before the main clause, and there’s a comma ( , ) at the end of that clause. You can also state the conditional with the if clause after the main clause with no comma used.
I always take my umbrella if it’s raining.
I’ll travel around the world first class if I win the lottery.
I would live in a better apartment if I had more money.
Here is a summary of the 3 patterns:
General conditional (Conditional O):
If it rains, I always take my umbrella.
Future conditional (Conditional I):
If it rains tomorrow, I’ll take my umbrella.
Present conditional (Conditional II):
If it rained, I would take my umbrella.
Review these 3 conditionals, and then do the exercises below.
© 2013 Ambien Malecot