Grammar-QuizzesConnectorsConnective PrepositionsConditional › Real Conditional

Real Conditionals (open conditional)

One situation must occur first before the other can occur

a hurricane moving toward land
 

 

Open/Real Conditionals — Present/Future vs. Past

PRESENT / FUTURE

A present conditional construction includes two parts: if → then.  One action must happen before the other can happen. An open or real conditional often expresses that the outcome is likely, perhaps near, in one's present reality.

A present tense verb in the condition phrase (If it comes) expresses that the situation can happen. If it does, the activity in the other clause will happen. A modal —will, can, may, or should— is used in the main clause.

CONDITIONAL PHRASE MAIN CLAUSE
IF – 1ST THEN – 2ND
PRESENT FUTURE MODAL

If the hurricane comes ashore this evening,

it will destroy buildings, trees and shorelines.   (predictable effect)

If we want to stay safe,

we will evacuate and move inland.

If we see an open gas station,

we will fill up with gas. 

If we are lucky tonight,

the storm will weaken before coming ashore.

PAST

A past conditional construction also includes if → then and expresses that there was an open possibility (good probability) that the condition occurred. The speaker doesn't know for sure. If it did, the speaker infers (guesses) that the action in the main clause occurred too.

A past verb in if phrase expresses "a situation probably happened (unsure)" and the past verb in the main clause expresses "this was the likely result". (Note this differs from a remote construction which includes a modal verb.)

CONDITIONAL PHRASE MAIN CLAUSE
IF – 1ST THEN – 2ND
PAST PAST

If the storm came ashore yesterday,

it destroyed everything in its path. 

If our neighbors were smart,

they evacuated and moved inland.

If drivers found open gas stations,

they filled up with gas. 

If people in the southern areas were lucky last night,

the storm weakened before coming ashore. 

 

¹ If is a connective preposition that usually takes a clause as its complement.  (Some shorter forms exist: I'll call you if necessary.) The if structure is a prepositional phrase [if + clause]. If is followed by a clause. See Grammar Notes below for details. Also see Prepositional Complements for kinds of words and phrases that can complete a preposition.

open conditional — in linguistic description, the name for a real or true conditional is "open" because the possibility of occurring is probable.

past open conditional — differs from a remote/unreal conditional, in which would is used in the main clause to express an imagined or predicted outcome.

remote conditional — in linguistic description, the name for an unreal, untrue, or hypothetical conditional is "remote" because it denotes distance — both in formality and reality.  See Uses for Conditional Statements.

ashore (N) – movement from a body of water and onto land

evacuate (V) – leave an unsafe area and go to a safe area

inland (N) – land area that is away from the sea or ocean, usually higher in elevation

shelter (N) –a safe public building that takes people in during a disaster

weaken (V) – become less strong

"The remote construction differs in meaning from open in that it entertains the condition as being satisfied in a world which is potentially different from the actual world." (Huddleston 8 §14.2.1)

When the context of the open conditional requires a real world, immediate answer,  hypothetical (remote) wording sounds odd:  the more time-sensitive (urgent) the question, the less hypothetical the wording.

 

 

 

Often Confused:  Conditional vs. Time-related Activities / Situations

CONDITIONAL — SINGLE OCCURENCE

One situation depends on the other happening first. (if, unless)

If this hurricane comes our way tomorrow, we will have to drive inland.

If the authorities give us a "green light", we can return to our home later.

 

TEMPORAL PREPOSITION — MULTIPLE OCCURENCES

One activity routinely is time-related to another.  (when, before, after)

If / Whenever a big storm comes our way, we cover the windows.

If/ When the storm passes, we open up the windows again.

 

 

See If vs. When | Before, After, When.

 

 

 

"If" Condition or Cause-Effect?

Express single vs. multiple occurrences

bee collecting pollen/man spraying trees
 

 

 "If" conditional (single occurrence) vs. "if" cause-effect (multiple occurrences)

IF—CONDITIONAL

In a present/future conditional statement, an if phrase expresses a single occurrence of a situation that is required for the activity in the main clause to occur.  (If X, then Y) The speaker is uncertain whether the activity in the if phrase will occur or not. The simple present tense is used in the clause after if, and a modal (will, can, may, might, shall) is used in the main clause.  "Under the condition that X occurs, Y will happen."           

CONDITION EFFECT
IF  SINGLE SITUATION PREDICTED ACTION / SITUATION

If the bee population dies off,

"under the condition that"

farmers will have a problem.

 

If we find out why bees are dying,

 

we will be able to fix the cause. 

If we don't find a solution,

 

bees may disappear.

If a colony of bees left the hive,

 

we were supposed to call animal control services.

IF—CAUSE  AND EFFECT

An if phrase can also express a repeated and predictable activity that is the cause for the effect in the main clause. The meaning of the if phrase expresses frequency (relative timing) rather than condition. The meaning is similar to using when or whenever. However, if expresses a little less certainty than when about whether or not  the activity in the main clause will occur.  "On the occasions that X occurs, Y is the predictable effect."

CAUSE EFFECT
IF  / WHEN  MULTIPLE SITUATIONS  ROUTINE OCCURENCES

If people use pesticides,

"on the occasions that"

they harm bees.  

 

If a bee collects pollen from a flower,

it also collects pesticide.

If a large number of bees die,

the colony collapses.

 

If a colony of bees left the hive,

 

we called animal control services.

 

colony – a group of bees and the queen

collapse – fail, die off

harm – hurt

pesticide (N) – a chemical substance used to kill insects and small animals that destroy crops

Also see If / When for cause-effect.

 

 

 

 

 

Punctuation

Commas

bee collecting pollen
 

 

Initial or Final Position

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.

PP – CONDITION EFFECT CLAUSE

If you want local bees to survive,

use less toxic pesticides. 

If you don't believe it,  

ask any beekeeper.

FINAL -POSITION

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

EFFECT CLAUSE PP–CONDITION

Use less toxic pesticides

 if if you want local bees to survive.

Ask any beekeeper

 if if you don't believe me. 

 

survive (V) – to continue to live after an accident, war, or illness

toxic (Adj) – poisonous, or harmful

beekeeper (N) – a person who takes care of bee hives (boxes where bees live)

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 ready.

 

 

 

 

 

Other Conditional Expressions

Should and Happen

phone exchange

 

 

Should / Happen

IF ... SHOULD

A verb expression such as should or should happen can be used in the content clause after if to express that something is unlikely to happen if by chance.

CONDITION CLAUSE EFFECT CLAUSE

If you should see my phone,

please let me know.

If  she should come by, 

call me.

If you should happen to arrive early,  

wait for me.

IF ... HAPPEN TO

Similarly, a verb and infinitive expression happen to can be used in the content clause after if to express that something is unlikely to occur if by chance.

CONDITION CLAUSE EFFECT CLAUSE

If  you happen to see my phone,

please let me know.

If  she happens to come by,

don't let her in.  (unlikely)

 

 

 

Also see: Omitting If  If / In case

 

 

 

 

 

If – Requests and Persuasion

If you will and If you will just

 

 

Request vs. Wish

POLITE REQUEST

The if you will phrase in these examples is understood as a request "if you will X…" (an expression, a polite way to ask someone to do something) and it is followed by a second action "I will do Y". Second person singular or plural you is used in the if -phrase. These sentence are problematic as they fall somewhere between being a conditional structure with if or being coordinated structure with and or then, a sequence.

If you will step this way, (and) I will take you to your table. (coordinated)

If you will step this way, you will see your table. (condition)

IF YOU WILL / IF YOU WOULD NEXT ACTION

If you will step this way please,

If you would step this way please,

Please follow me, and

I will show you to your table.

 

If you stepped² this way, please,

If he³ will step this way, please.

I will show you to your table.

If you will kindly wait a moment.¹

If you would kindly wait a moment.

Please wait a moment, and

(then I will help you.)

understood but not said

I will help you.

If you will give me a moment,

If you would give me a moment,

Give me a moment, and

I'll be right with you.

 

I'll attend to you.

WISH – PERSUASION

The if you will just phrase is understood as a wish for another person to change his/her behavior. As in if only you would…, it expresses that the smallest effort is needed for the person to achieve or receive a different outcome. You, he, she, they may be used in the if-phrase. These examples fall somewhere in between a conditional structure with if and a cause-effect structure with because. Past tense structures are possible.

If you will just do as I say, you will succeed. (small effort–good outcome)

If you do X, you will succeed. (condition)

IF YOU WILL JUST OUTCOME

If you will just try a little harder,

If only you would try harder,

I want you to try harder so that

you will succeed. 

you would succeed. 

you will do better.

If you will just listen a moment,

If you will only listen a moment,

Please listen a moment so that

I will explain myself.

I will explain myself.

I can explain myself.

If you will just take a moment to think it over,

Please take a moment to think it over so that

you will understand better. 

 

If you had only listened a moment,

Past tense does not express persuasion; it expresses regret.

I would have explained myself.

 

¹ If you will  occurs in speech as a stand alone utterance. The second action is understood, not spoken.   If written, it would be paraphrased as a narration.

² A request change to past tense.  

³ Only second person singular or plural (you) is used in this request  if phrase.

If you will – a polite request

If you would – a polite request using the "remote" or distant form (more formal) to ask someone to do something. (It is not past tense.)

step this way – walk in this direction, "follow me"

will (V) – being willing, determined, sure to do something; 

will  (modal verb) future intent

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

If you won't

Express lack of cooperation

 

 

 

Refusal — If you won't

NEGATIVE CONDITION

Won't in the condition expresses the idea of someone being "unwilling" to do something. 

CONDITION— IF…WON'T PREDICTED EFFECT

If you won't work harder, (are unwilling)

then you will continue to fail.  

If you won't eat your broccoli, (are unwilling)

then you won't get dessert.

NEGATIVE CONDITION WORDING

A similar meaning is expressed with unwilling (Adj) and refuse (V) in the condition clause after if.

CONDITION— IF…UNWILLING PREDICTED EFFECT

If you are unwilling work harder,

then you will continue to fail.  

If you refuse to work harder,  

then you will continue to fail.  

 

will (modal) – future intent  We will leave tomorrow.
will
(V) – being willing, determined, sure to do something; She willed herself not to cry.

 

 

 

 

 

Other if Complements

Be going to / Am to…

 

 

If I am to…

IF + BE GOING + TO VERB

Be going to  in the clause after if expresses future intent, the main clause states the condition for obtaining it.  (The speaker is asking for cooperation.) 

STATEMENT OF INTENT ADVICE / CONDITION

If I am going to help,

you need to give me your full attention.

If bees are going to be saved,

we must stop using toxic chemicals. (passive voice)

If you are going to arrive there on time,

you had better leave now.

If he is going to be home by 9:00 (intent),

he ought to start walking by 8:30. (requirement)

IF +  (BE)  + TO VERB

If…am to + verb  in a clause after if is a shorter way of expressing conditional intent (assistance) when asking for someone to cooperate.

STATEMENT OF INTENT ADVICE / CONDITION

If I am to help,

you need to give me your full attention.

If bees are to be saved,

we must stop using toxic chemicals.

If you are to arrive there on time,

you had better leave now.  

*If he is to be home by 9:00,

I will drop by /  he ought to start walking at 8:30. (condition)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short If Complements

If necessary…

 

 

Expressions with If

FULL CLAUSE

If it (be) necessary in the if prep. phrase expresses a condition of requirement. (also if any good, if ever, if anything)                             

If  [it is] necessary, scientists will work overtime.

If [there is] any good that comes of this, it will be a miracle.

Rarely, if [it is] ever, are bees out at night.

I'm not upset.  If [there is] anything , I am relieved.

If [you are] in doubt, ask for help.

SHORTENED IF CLAUSE

If necessary, If anything, if ever, if in doubt are other common expressions  that may be shortened.  subject + be is omitted.

If necessary, scientists will work overtime. (Adj)

If any good comes of this, it will be a miracle. (NP)

Rarely, if ever, are bees out at night. (Adv)

I'm not upset.  If anything, I am relieved. (N)

If in doubt, ask for help. (PP)

 

See Adjunct Prepositional Phrases. 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*If you will need something, just ask.    

Will is used in an if-clause as a request. (See expressions.)

*I'll come pick you up if you will be done early.   

Will is used in an if-clause as a request.

If he will success, he can find it.
 

SOLUTION

If you need something, just ask.   (future chance of need) 
If you are going to need something, give us 24 hours to get it. (future intent - requirement) 
*If you will need something, . . .   (Need cannot be used in a request.) 

I'll come pick you up if you are done early.  (future chance of being done) 
 

If he wills success, he can find it.   (Will can be used as a lexical verb meaning "to purpose, determine on, or elect, by an act of will".)

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

► Show Grammar Notes and Works Cited ▼ Hide Grammar Notes

Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Description

 

 

Traditional / ESL and Linguistic Descriptions

TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR

In traditional grammar, a a conditional clause is an adverbial clause (related to the verb).

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

A real conditional relates a cause-effect relationship of a true situation.
An unreal conditional relates a cause-effect relationship of an untrue situation, 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  is a 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)

REED-KELLOGG DIAGRAM 

We take an umbrella if it is raining.

LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

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

if  is a preposition that takes a content clause as its subordinate complement.  (PP= P + 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)
   

TREE DIAGRAM

We take an umbrella if it is raining.      

 

Clause; Word Functions; Finite / Nonfinite; NP –noun phrase; N – noun; VP – verb phrase; V – verb; Compcomplement; Detdeterminer; Adj –  adjective; AdjP – adjective phrase; PPprepositional phrase; P – preposition; SubSubordinator

 

 

Works Cited

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Biber, Douglas, and Stig Johansson, et al. Longman Grammar Of Spoken And Written English. Pearson Education, 1999.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • O'Brien, Elizabeth. "Diagramming Sentences Exercises: Chapter 1." English Grammar Revolution. 2016. english-grammar-revolution.com/english-grammar-exercise.html. Accessed on 10 Oct. 2016.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.
  • "Sentence diagram." Wikipedia. 28 Sep. 2016. Accessed on 10 Oct. 2016.

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Tense Agreement

bee
 

 

Read Context

A World Without Bees

When Professor Gordon Frankie wants to impress school children with the importance of bees, he lays out an array of foods such as berries, grapes, pears, and chocolate alongside a couple of dried-out tortillas and rice cakes and asks them which foods they prefer. "The kids go for the fruits and chocolate," he said.

 

"Then I tell them: In a world without bees, the only choice they'd have would be the dried-out tortillas or rice cakes, since wheat and rice are self-pollinated. Even chocolate, from the cacao plant, depends on the pollination of bees. That gets their attention."  The exact cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is not known.

 

 

 

Complete the verb form.

  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 1-10" button.

 

1.

2.


pesticide (N) – a poison that kills a particular or several kinds of insects

3.
– a small destructive insect that attaches itself to the body of the bee and sucks its blood.
treat (V) – apply medicine to stop a harmful disease

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.
How should the sentence be punctuated?


10.
How should the sentence be punctuated?


 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Bee Society

 

 

 

Complete the sentence with "if" expressions.

  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 11-21" button.

 

11.


abandon (V) – to leave someone, especially someone you are responsible for

12.


swarm (N) – a large group of flying bees
disturb (V) – to bother
hive (N) – box or location in which bees live

13.


harm (V) – hurt or endanger

14.

15.

16.

17.


benefit (V) – to receive advantages and improvements in our life from their work

18.

19.

20.
What does the if-clause express in this sentence?

21.
What does the if-clause express in this sentence?

22.


sting (N)– the painful bite of an insect