Real / Unreal

Likely or unlikely to occur?

 

 

 

Jack – mowingJack works five days a week as an electrician. Most weekends, Jack goes out and mows the lawn. Jack likes the exercise and being outdoors.  He also likes a neat well-kept lawn. However, occasionally the Little League calls him to referee a baseball game at the community ballpark on Saturday mornings.  For this reason, he mows the lawn if he has time. 

Ted – restingTed works six days a week as a healthcare worker. He has almost no free time, and is usually exhausted on weekends. Sunday afternoon is his only opportunity to rest, so he goes outside to his hammock and takes a peaceful nap. He has an old manual lawn mower in the garage.  He would mow the lawn if he had time. 

exhausted (adj.) – extremely tired

likely (adj.) – probably will happen, probably is true

referee (v.) – someone who makes sure that the rules of a sport such as football, basketball, or boxing, are followed

 

 

 

 

Real vs. Unreal Conditional

REAL—TRUE

The present tense in a conditional clause expresses that the activity may occur–is likely to occur. (Conditions are favorable for the action to happen).

PRESENT LIKELY CONDITION

Jack mows the grass
— He does this routinely whenever he has time.

if he has time.

FUTURE LIKELY CONDITION

Jack will mow the grass
— He doesn't know if he will have time yet.

if he has time.

PAST LIKELY CONDITION

Jack mowed the grass
— He did it whenever he had time.

if he had time.

UNREAL—UNTRUE / HYPOTHETICAL

The past or past perfect in a conditional clause expresses that the activity is unlikely to occur. (Conditions are unfavorable for the action to happen.) Also called a "remote conditional".

PRESENT UNLIKELY CONDITION

Ted would mow the grass
He doesn't have time. 

if he had time.

FUTURE UNLIKELY CONDITION

Ted would mow the grass
He won't have time.

if he had time.

PAST UNLIKELY CONDITION

Ted would have mowed the grass
He didn't have time.

if he had had time.

 

mow (v.) –cut with a lawn mower (equipment)
likely (adj.) – probable, possible to happen
Unreal conditional is also call remote conditional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real & Unreal Conditionals

Modals in the Result Clause

 

 

 

Will / Would, May / Might, Can / Could

REAL

Will, may, might, and could are used to by a speaker to express opinion on the likelihood of an action happening in the present or future.

PRES / FUTURE – RESULT CLAUSE LIKELY CONDITION

Jack mows the grass
Jack will mow the grass
Jack may mow the grass
Jack might mow the grass
Jack could mow the grass
 

if he has time.

PAST – RESULT CLAUSE LIKELY CONDITION

Jack mowed the grass
Jack would mow the grass
Jack could mow the grass
 

if he had time.

UNREAL

Will have, may have, might have, and could have + participle are used to by a speaker to express opinion on an action that will not or did not happen.

PRES / FUTURE – RESULT CLAUSE UNLIKELY CONDITION

Ted would  mow the grass
Ted could  mow the grass
Ted might  mow the grass


 

if he had time.

PAST – RESULT CLAUSE UNLIKELY CONDITION

Ted would  have mowed the grass
Ted could  have mowed the grass
Ted might  have mowed the grass

if he had had time.

 

likelihood – probability, favorability
will – sure, certain
may, might, could – probable

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real & Unreal Conditionals

Modals in the Condition Clause

 

 

 

Modals with Real & Unreal

REAL

Can, could, may, might are used in the condition clause when they add information about the speaker's opinion: can and could – ability, may and might– permission.

PRES / FUTURE – RESULT CLAUSE LIKELY CONDITION

Jack takes the day off.  

if he has vacation time.

 

*if he will have vacation time.

 

if he can get some time off.
— sometimes he is able to.

 

if he may do so.
— sometimes he is permitted to.

PAST – RESULT CLAUSE LIKELY CONDITION

Jack took the day off.  

if he had vacation time.

 

*if he would have vacation time.

 

if he could get some time off.
— sometimes he was able to.

 

if he might do so.
— sometimes he was permitted to.

UNREAL

Could, could have, might, and might have are used in the condition clause when they add information about the speaker's opinion: could and could have – ability, might and might have – permission.

PRES / FUTURE – RESULT CLAUSE UNLIKELY CONDITION

Jack would mow the grass  

if he had time.

 

*if he would have time.

 

if he could have time.
— he's not able to.

 

if he might have time.
— he's not permitted to.

PAST – RESULT CLAUSE UNLIKELY CONDITION

Jack would have mowed the grass  

if he had had time.

 

*if he would have had time.

 

if he could have had more time.
— he wasn't able to.

 

if he might have had time.
— he was not permitted to.

 

likelihood – probability, favorability
will – sure, certain
may, might, could – probable
*not used

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

I would do my homework if I would have more time.

(Not incorrect, but uncommonly used.)

I would have finished the test if I would have had a little more time.

SOLUTION

I would do my homework if I had more time.
I would have done my homework if I had had time.

(Although would have is a past form of would, it is uncommonly used in the condition clause.)  

I would have finished the test if I had had more time.

I would have finished the test if they might have given us more time.
(Might have can be used to politely state a critique or review that is negative. "no permission")

I would have finished the test if I could have found another pencil.
(Could have adds information about an unavailable item, "no ability")

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammar Notes

Traditional Grammar and Linguistic Description

Advanced

 

 

Traditional and Linguistic Descriptions

TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

In traditional grammar, a sentence with a conditional clause with a true situation  is a real conditional, and an untrue situation is an unreal condition, a hypothetical condition or an imaginary present, past or future.

An if clause refers to a condition — something which must happen so that something else can happen.   (Swan 257)
if   conjunction  "We use special structures with if when we are talking about unreal situations — things that will probably not happen, situations that are untrue or imaginary… We use past tenses and would to 'distance' our language from reality." (Swan 258)

If-clauses "also called adverb clauses present possible conditions. The main clause expresses result." (Azar 17-6, 20-2)

Conditional construction: if-clause—protasis; matrix (main) clause— apodosis (Huddleston 8 §14)

if  — preposition that takes a content clause as its subordinate complement.  (PP + finite clause)

open: If you come on Sunday, we'll have dinner together.
open: If you came on Sundays, you always had dinner with them.

remote: if you came tonight, we would have dinner together.  (preterit, irrealis)
remote: if you had come tonight, we would have had dinner together.  (past preterit, irrealis)

If I was / were…  preterit verb form. Irrealis (Huddleston 3 §1.7)
   

REED-KELLOGG DIAGRAM  TREE DIAGRAM

We take an umbrella if it is raining.

We take an umbrella if it is raining.      

Categories:  NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Detdeterminer; PP – prepositional phrase; P – preposition; AdvP – adverb phrase; Adv – adverb; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective; Subord – Subordinator;  Coord – Coordinator; Interj – Interjection

Functions: Subject:  Subject,   Predicate: Predicator (V) Complement:  elements required by the verb: object, indirect object, predicative complement  Adjuncts: (optional modifiers) Adj,  Adv

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Real or Unreal

 

 

 

Read the paragraph above about Jack and Ted.

Is the situation likely to happen (real) or unlikely to happen.  likely — probably will happen, probably is true.   unlikely — probably won't happen, probably isn't true.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 1-10" button.

 

1.
Jack likes the way his lawn looks if he mows it weekly.
       

2.
Ted would like the way his lawn looked if he mowed it more often.
   

3.
Ted would prefer to work shorter hours if he could.
   

4.
Jack would probably feel like Ted if he had to work six days a week.
   

5.
If Jack referees a Little League game on Saturday, he can mow his lawn on Sunday instead.
   

6.
If Ted has a three-day weekend, he mows his lawn.
   

7.
Jack would also like to rest in a hammock if he had a hammock.
   

8.
If Ted had a power lawn mower like Jack, maybe he would enjoy mowing his lawn.
   

9.
Jack would loan Ted his lawn mower if he asked.
   

10.
Jack could loan his lawn mower to Ted if Ted would loan Jack his hammock.
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Real or Imagined

Aiden
 

 

Read

Aiden bikes to school.  It takes him fifteen minutes to get there. He doesn't bike when it rains. He walks instead. Then it takes him thirty minutes. He doesn't like to walk because his books are heavy, but sometimes he can't help it.

Aiden's friend drives.  Aiden can call him and ask his friend for a ride.  However, he must call him the night before.  Sometimes, it rains unexpectedly in the morning. So Aiden walks in the rain. Fortunately, Aiden has a good umbrella and Aiden likes to walk.

can't help – cannot avoid

forecast – predict something, especially weather

get to school – travel to school

in time – within the time, not from the beginning, but still able to do the activity

on time – at the beginning set time of an activity

 

 

 

Read the conditional sentence and answer the question.

likely — probably will happen, probably is true.   unlikely — probably won't happen, probably isn't true.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 11-16" button.

 

11.
If the weather is favorable, Aiden bikes to school.
Does Aiden bike to school?
       

12.
If it's going to rain, Aiden walks.
Is Aiden going to walk?
                     

13.
This morning it suddenly started raining.  If Aiden called his friend, it would be too late to get a ride.
Is Aiden going to call his friend?
                     

14.
If Aiden had started walking earlier, he would get to school on time this morning.
Did Aiden begin walking early?
        

15.
Aiden will make it in time to class if he walks fast.
Will Aiden walk fast?
        

16.
If Aiden had checked the weather forecast the night before, he wouldn't be walking in the rain now.
Did Aiden check the weather forecast?