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Sunday, 2 October 2011

Conditional sentences in English

Conditional sentences (if-clauses, main clauses)
 

Conditional sentences

The conditional sentences are sometimes confusing for learners of English.
Watch out:
1) Which type of the conditional sentences is used?
2) Where is the if-clause (e.g. at the beginning or at the end of the conditional sentence)?
There are three types of the if-clauses.
type condition
I condition possible to fulfill
II condition in theory possible to fulfill
III condition not possible to fulfill (too late)

Form

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

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.

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.

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.
 

Conditional sentences - Special types and structures

Conditional sentences (if-clauses, main clauses)
 

Structure

If-clauses can be clause-initial (1), clause-medial (2) as well as clause-final (3).
(1) If you like, we can catch a movie.
(2) We, if you like, can catch a movie.
(3) We can catch a movie if you like.


Types

Aside from the typical type I, II, III strucure, conditionals can be divided into two categories:
real and unreal conditionals.

Real Condition

If I have money, I spend it. Present Real Conditional - type I
If I had money, I spent it. Past Real Conditional - type I
If I have money, I will/am going to spend it. Future Real Conditional - type I

Unreal Condition

If I had had money, I would have spent it. Past unreal Conditional - type III
If I had money, I would spend it. I think about spending the money TODAY. Present unreal Conditional - type II
If I had money, I would spend it. I think about spending the money NEXT WEEK. Future unreal Conditional - type II


Special Features

Modal verbs
Main clauses with real conditional tenses can have modal verbs.
If I have money, I can spend it.
You can use could and might instead of would in unreal conditional clauses.
If I had money, I could spend it.
(I would be able to spend it.)
If I had money, I might spend it.
(I would possibly spend it.)
 

Mixed Conditionals

Conditional sentences (if-clauses, main clauses)

Mixed Conditionals

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.
Past --> Present
If I had taken an aspirin, I wouldn't have a headache now.


Past --> Future
If I had known that you are going to come by tomorrow, I would be in then.


Present --> Past
If she had enough money, she could have done this trip to Hawaii.


Present --> Future
If I were you, I would be spending my vacation in Seattle.


Future --> Past
If I weren't flying to Detroit, I would have planned a trip to Vancouver.


Future --> Present
If I were taking this exam next week, I would be high-strung.   

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