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GRAMMAR & STRUCTURE — Examples
Conditionals

 
 

Examples of the different forms of conditional sentences:

 
 
If-clause in the present tense (Cause/condition and effect/result) Meaning Grammar
If you are alive, you are breathing.
( "You" is a general term meaning "people, any person".)

This is a general truth. All living things breathe.
Condition: Alive
Result: Breathing

If-clause: Simple present tense
Result-clause: Simple present tense
If it is Tuesday, the cafeteria is serving chicken for lunch. This is a habit or regular event. Every Tuesday the cafeteria serves chicken.
Condition: It is Tuesday
Result: Chicken for lunch
If-clause: Simple present tense
Result-clause: Simple present tense.
If it is sunny tomorrow, (then) we will go to the beach.
( "Then" is optional.)
This sentence makes a prediction about the future.
Condition: Sunny tomorrow
Result: Go to the beach
If-clause: Simple present tense
Result-clause: Future tense.
We will go to the beach unless it is raining.
(These sentences have the same meaning: We will not go to the beach if it rains. We will go to the beach if it is not raining.)
"Unless" replaces "if". "Unless" means that the condition must not happen in the future.
Condition: Not raining tomorrow
Result: Go to the beach
Result-clause: Future tense
Unless-clause: Simple present tense
These sentences make an inference ( a logical guess) about the cause or effect of an action.
If Mary is here, she probably wants to see me. Condition: Mary is here
Inference: she wants to see me
Meaning: I think Mary is here because she wants to see me.
If-clause: Simple present tense
Inference-clause: Simple present
If Mary is here now, she must have driven quickly. Condition: Mary is here now
Inference: she drove quickly
Meaning: I did not expect Mary to arrive here so quickly. Therefore, I think she drove very quickly.
If-clause: Simple present tense
Inference-clause: Past tense (often uses a modal e.g. must)
 
     
 
If-clause in the past tense (Cause/condition and effect/result OR hypothetical situations about the present and future) Meaning Grammar
These sentences make an inference (a logical guess) about the cause or effect of an action.
If Tom read his e-mail yesterday, (then) he knows about the meeting this morning. Condition: Tom read his e-mail yesterday.
Inference: He knows about the meeting.
If-clause: Past tense
Inference-clause: Simple present tense
If Tom read his e-mail yesterday, he (has) probably already answered most of his mail. Condition: Tom read his e-mail yesterday.
Inference: He (has) answered it.
If-clause: Past tense
Inference-clause: Past tense (or present perfect)
These are hypothetical situations. They are not true.

If Tom had a million dollars, he would give Ann some money.

Tom does not have a million dollars. He is not going to give Ann some money. If-clause: Past tense
Result-clause: Would + simple form

If I weren't working today, (The grammar is past tense) I would go to the beach. (The time is present.)

Note: In the if-clause, the plural form (I/he/she/it were) is used in formal English, but the singular form is common in informal and spoken English (I was).

I am working today. I am not going to the beach. If-clause: Past tense
Result clause: Would + simple form
This is a hypothetical situation. It is not true.

If I wasn't (The grammar is past tense) working next week, I would go to Hawaii with you. (The time is future.)

Note: In the if-clause, the plural form (I/she/he/it were) is used in formal English, but the singular form is common in informal and spoken English (I was).

I am working next week. I will not go to Hawaii. But I would like to go to Hawaii. It is a nice idea. If-clause: Past tense
Result-clause: Would + simple form
 
     
 
If-clause in the past perfect (Hypothetical situations about the past) Meaning Grammar
These are hypothetical situations. They are not true.
If I had won the race last week, I would have received $10,000. I did not win the race. I did not receive $10,000. If-clause: Past perfect
Result-clause: Would + have + past participle
If Kazu had grown up in Victoria, he would have learned English as a child. Kazu did not grow up in Victoria. He did not learn English as a child. If-clause: Past perfect
Result-clause: Would + have + past participle