Grammar-QuizzesConnectorsConnective Prepositions › Conditional

Conditional (hypothetical)

One activity happens after the other happens first

X structure diagram
two people and a dog walking
We walk the dog if we have time.
‹ diagram ›
► What is a conditional? ▼ Explanation of term

A conditional:

  • expresses that one activity will happen if the other activity happens first. The conditional situation is either real—a situation which can or has occurred— or unreal—a situation which is imagined or hypothetical (does not, did not or will not occur). We will walk the dog today if we have time. (real, can happen).
  • takes form as:
    • a real situation that includes:
      • the main clause that expresses an activity or situation that can truly happen and includes a modal verb form such as will, may can, etc.
      • the condition clause that usually begins with a preposition if or unless and is followed by a content clause that expresses the action or situation required for the first activity to take place.  We will walk the dog today if we have time. (true, can happen).
    • an unreal situation that includes:
      • the main clause that expresses a situation that is imaginary and usually includes the modal verb would.
      • the condition clause that usually begins with a preposition if or unless and is followed by a content clause with an "irrealis" verb form (were, knew, walked). We would walk the dog if we had time. (unreal, won't happen) We would have walked the dog if we had had time. (untrue, can't or didn't happen)

Conditional / Hypothetical

Summary of Practices

 

baklava

Identify points that need review

 

If / Unless: express a specific condition for an outcome

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Cooking

If you cook your turkey like this, you will have a tender turkey.

Only if you cook your turkey like this, will you have a delicious dinner.

Unless you cook your turkey like this, you will have a tough turkey.

Cook your turkey like this. Otherwise, you will have a tough turkey.

If / In Case: state a conditioned vs. a precautionary action

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Earthquake

Keep some extra batteries and bottled water In case there is an earthquake.

Get away from falling objects if there is an earthquake.

Real Conditional: one situation must occur first before the other situation can happen

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

a hurricane moving toward land

"Real" or "True":

If the hurricane moves ashore tonight, it will destroy property.

If the hurricane moved ashore last night, it destroyed property.

Expressions:

If I am to help, you need to give me your full attention.

If you will step this way please.

If you will only try a little harder, you will succeed.

If you won't work harder, then you will continue to fail. 

If you are unwilling to work harder, then you will continue to fail. 

If / When: express a singular condition vs. a recurring action

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

cloth shopping bag

If he goes shopping today, he'll get some light bulbs.

If/When he goes shopping, he takes a bag.

If he went shopping yesterday, he got some light bulbs. 

If/When he went shopping, he took the car. 

Omitting if: give advice in hypothetical situations  (irrealis "were")

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

shakingman

If I were/was you, I wouldn't get involved.

Were I you, I wouldn't get involved.

Had I known, I would have said something.

Should you see him again, call me immediately.

Real / Unreal Conditional: express whether something is likely or unlikely to occur

Intermediate ESL

Jack – mowing his lawn

Jack will cut the grass if he has time.  (real)

Jack would cut the grass if he had time. (unreal)

*Jack would cut the grass if he would have time.

Present Unreal Conditional: state strategy with hypothetical statements

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Chess board

If I moved my pawn forward, then I could take his bishop.

 

Past Hypothetical 1: analyzing errors that caused an accident

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Accident scene

If the second engine hadn't caught fire, the plane could have made an emergency landing.

 

Past Unreal Conditional 2: analyze an accident

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Titanic

If the night watchmen had had binoculars, they would have been able to spot the iceberg earlier.

The captain could have steered directly into the iceberg causing less damage.

The Titanic should have had more lifeboats.

Mixed Tenses: recognize hypothetical situations in mixed time frames

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

hungry dog

If you had fed the dog, she wouldn't be hungry now.

If I had known (that) your dog was aggressive,  I wouldn't have offered to feed it.

If I had known (that) your dog were ill,  I would have offered to help it.

Wishes: express wishes and regrets

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

magic lantern

We wish to go with you. (direct request / demand)

I wish I were home in my country.  (a private thought; longing)

I wish I could go with you. (an excuse or an expression of regret)

I wish you would let me pay for dinner. (pretend regret, or upset)

I wish you'd turn that TV off!  (low expectation request; anger)

  

Wish Agreement: maintain tense agreement in conditional statements

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

grandfather

My father wished he had gone to college. (I regret he didn't.)

My father wished that I would go to graduate school. (I did.)

I wish father had understood my appreciation.(I regret he didn't.)

I wish my son understood his grandfather's efforts. (He doesn't.)

I wish my son would understand the importance of hard work. (He might one day.)

Would: state preference, request, habit or excuse

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

waiter

Would you like some coffee?

Would you rather have tea or coffee?

On Sundays, we would visit our relatives

I would have stopped smoking, but it was too difficult.

I would rather have found an easy way out, but I didn't.

Will / Would: express determination, unwillingness and failed intent

Beginning– Intermediate ESL

contestant

I will win this singing contest!

I am determined to win this singing contest!

The judges won't let me sing another song. 

The judges were unwilling to let me sing another song. 

I would have done better, but my voice cracked

I hoped that I would do well, but my voice cracked.