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Present and Past Real Conditionals

Habits and customs under specific conditions

cloth shopping bag
 

 

Present vs. Past Real Conditional Statements

PRESENT

A present tense conditional statement expresses that a particular action happens only after another action (the condtion) happens first. Both the main clause and the condition include the present tense.

PRESENT CONDITION FACTUAL EFFECT

If we go shopping,

we take cloth bags. 

If we want vegetables,

we look for local produce.

If we find fresh greens,

we buy them. 

If we are lucky,

we find fresh fish.

PAST

A past tense conditional statement expresses that a particular action happened only after another action (the condtion) happened first. Both the main clause and the condition include a past tense (preterit) verb form .

PAST CONDITION FACTUAL EFFECT

If we went shopping,

we took a cloth bag. 

If we wanted vegetables,

we looked for local produce.

If we found fresh greens,

we bought them. 

If we were lucky,

we found fresh fish. 

 

greens(N) – green leafy vegetables such as spinach
See Grammar Notes (present conditional) for terms.

 

 

 

 

Real Conditionals

If vs. When

CFL bulb
 

 

Other Words for Conditional Habits

IF

If is used before a hypothetical clause and implies a condition on which something depends.

IF CLAUSE FACTUAL EFFECT

If we need light bulbs,

we buy CFL bulbs. 

If we buy cleaning products,

we look for less-toxic products. 

If we can,

we walk or bike to the store. 

Ifwe buy a product,

we consider whether it is recyclable.

OTHER WORDING

When, whenever, anytime, or each time expresses a temporal (time-related) meaning before a hypothetical clause, and is used when a condition or situation recurs (happens repeatedly, regularly).

WHEN CLAUSE FACTUAL EFFECT

When we need light bulbs,

we buy CFL bulbs.  (present)

Wheneverwe buy cleaning products,

we look for less-toxic products. 

Anytime we can,

we walk or bike to the store. 

Each time we buy a product,

we consider whether it is recyclable.

 

whenever (ternporal preposition) – anytime 

if (conditional preposition) "provided that'

CFL – compact fluorescent light bulb

toxic (Adj) – having a poisonous, harmful effect

recyclable (Adj) – can be treated (reprocessed) and reused

if — heads an adjunct prepositional phrase that takes a clause (and a few other word forms) as its complement. The condition "clause" is actually a prepositional phrase (PP). Call me if you are ready. Call me if necessary. I rarely, if ever, call them..

 

 

 

 

Punctuation

Commas

 

 

 

Clause Position and Comma Use

INITIAL-POSITION  

commaA comma separates the condition, a prepositional phrase headed by if, from the main clause when it is placed before the main clause.

IF PHRASE EFFECT CLAUSE

If I went shopping,

I took a cloth bag. 

If have time,

I visit my friends.

FINAL -POSITION

no commaNo comma is used when the adjunct prepositional phrase with if is placed after the main clause.

EFFECT CLAUSE IF PHRASE

I took a cloth bag

if I went shopping.

I visit my friends

if I have time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Error and Solution

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

If I went shopping, I was taking a cloth bag. 
(A repeated past habit is not expressed in this way.)

 

SOLUTION

If I went shopping, I took a cloth bag (1 event or multiple events, customary) 

If I went shopping, *I would take a cloth bag (multiple events, customary, 'used to')

 

 

 

*Would –  Three Meanings

#1 WOULD #2 WOULD #3 WOULD

Would can be used to indicate a former habit.

Would can be used to make a request or invite.

Would can indicate something hypothetical or imaginary.

FORMER HABIT REQUEST / INVITATION HYPOTHETICAL

During the summers, I would go to my grandparents house.  (custom  or habit)

Would you like a cookie?

How would you like it if I did that to you?
(present - imaginary)

See Grammar Notes (present conditional) for terms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice

Energy Conservation

Solar Panels
 

 

Coordinate the present and past real-conditional verb forms

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

 

1.

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4.

5.

6.


carpool (V) – share a ride

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11.

AC (abbr.) –air-conditioning

12.

13.

   semi-full (Adj) – half full

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