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 an effect that happens under a specific condition. A present tense verb form is used in the If-clause and the effect-clause (result-clause).

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 an effect that happened under a specific condition. A past tense (preterit) verb form is used in the If-clause and the effect-clause (result-clause).

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

Other Words for If

CFL bulb

 

 

 

Other Words for Conditional Habits

IF

A conditional sentence that expresses a true condition (fact, general truth) includes an if-clause with a present tense verb form.

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 can be used in place of If for conditional statements about habits and customs.

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 (prep.) – anytime 

CFL – compact fluorescent light bulb

toxic (adj.) – having a poisonous, harmful effect

recyclable (adj.) – can be treated (reprocessed) and reused

 

 

 

 

 

Conditional Clauses

Clause Position

 

 

 

Clause Position and Comma Use

INITIAL-POSITION  

commaWhen the if–clause (the dependent clause) comes before the result clause (the independent clause), a comma separates the clauses.

IF CLAUSE EFFECT CLAUSE

If I went shopping,

I took a cloth bag. 

If have time,

I visit my friends.

FINAL -POSITION

no commaWhen the if–clause comes after the result clause, no comma is used.  (This is standard word order.)

EFFECT CLAUSE IF CLAUSE

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.

 

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carpool (v.) – share a ride

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AC (abbr.) –air-conditioning

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   semi-full (adj.) – half full

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