What are Conditionals?

What are conditionals?Conditionals are sometimes called if statements, or conditional statements. When we use the word “if” we set up a condition that needs to be met before a result.

There are two parts to conditionals, an if part and a result part. Each part is usually called a clause.

  • e.g. If clause , result clause

You can switch the order of the phrases.

  • e.g. Result clause if clause

Notice that if you put the result clause first you do not need to put a comma to separate the clauses.

There are different types of conditionals based on the tense. There is a past, present and future conditional.

These types of conditionals  are real and unreal.

What is a real conditional?

A real conditional is something that you think is possible.

  • e.g. If I see Bob, I will tell him.

In this example you think that you will see Bob. You think it is a real possibility that is why you used this type of conditional.

What is an unreal conditional?

An unreal conditional is something that you think is impossible or imaginary.

  • e.g. If I had a million dollars, I would be rich.

In this example you don’t have a million dollar, so you aren’t rich. You imagine the situation, that is why you use an unreal conditional.

So what verb tense do you use?

The following are conditional charts that will break down which if goes with what.

Real conditionals

Time If clause Result Clause Example
Present Simple present Simple present If I have money, I shop.
Past Simple past Simple past If I had money, I shopped.
Future Simple present Simple future If I have money, I will shop.

Present real conditional: We use this conditional when something is true now. Whenever you have time now you shop.

Past real conditional: We use this conditional to show that something was true in the past. Whenever you had money in the past you shopped.

Future real conditional: We use this conditional when you think something will be possible in the future. When you have time in the future you will shop.

Unreal conditionals

Time If clause Result Clause Example
Present Simple past Would + infinitive If I had money, I would shop.
Past Past perfect Would + have + past participle If I had had money, I would have shopped.
Future Simple past Would + infinitive If I had money tomorrow, I would shop.

Present unreal conditional: We use this conditional when we want to change the current situation. “If I had money, I would shop.” This means  that you don’t have money now, so you won’t go shopping.

Past unreal conditional: We use this conditional when we want to change something in the past. It is most often used with regrets.”If I had had money, I would have shopped.” This means that you didn’t have money in the past, so you didn’t go shopping.

Future unreal conditional: We use this conditional when you want something in the future to change. “If I had money tomorrow, I would shop.” This means that you won’t have money tomorrow, so you won’t go shopping.

Will and Would

Do not will or would in the if clause.

  • e.g. If I will, I will. (incorrect)
  • e.g. If I see him, I will tell him. (correct)
This is common mistake that people make when they first start using conditionals.

If I were?

In English when we are using unreal conditionals we use “were” instead of was.

  • e.g. If I were you, I would go for a hike.

Typically, we use “I was” instead of “I were” but with unreal conditionals we use were.

 

If you have any questions, try to ask them in the comments as conditionals for practice.

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Iain Robson

A teacher, a learner, and all round nice guy. I love talking to people through social media, and in real life. Feel free to connect with me on twitter

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