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Conditional Sentences (#3), by Dennis Oliver

 

 

Conditional ("if") sentences normally have two parts.
One part shows a
result and the other shows a condition
on which the result depends. The
condition is normally
preceded by
if. In "He'd get angry if he didn't get what
he wanted," the result is "he'd get angry" and the condition
(introduced by "if") is "he didn't get what he wanted."

There are two main types of conditional sentences: real
and
unreal. Real conditional sentences refer to situations
that are either true or possible. Unreal conditionals refer
to situations that are untrue, impossible or hypothetical;
conditional sentences of this type are often described as
being
contrary to fact.

We've already looked at real conditional sentences.

Now let's take a look at the unreal ones.

 

Unreal Conditionals (#1)

 

 

There are several types of unreal conditional sentences.
They differ according to the
time that they refer to, but
they are the same in one way: the situations that they
show are
unreal, hypothetical, and contrary to fact.

The first type of unreal conditional is used for present and
future time. Normally, unreal conditional sentences that
refer to present and future time use this form:

 

BE:

If + subject + were + other words,
subject +
would ('d) + verb + other words.

OR

Subject + would ('d) + verb + other words +
if + subject +
were + other words.

 

Examples:

If he were here today, he'd help you. /
He
'd help you if he were here today.

(He isn't here today, so he can't help you.)

 

If I were rich, I'd travel around the world. /
I
'd travel around the world if I were rich.

(I'm not rich, so I can't travel around the world.)

 

If cars were affordable, I'd buy a new one. /
I
'd buy a new car if they were affordable.

(New cars aren't affordable for me, so I can't
buy one.)

___________________________________

 

Other Verbs:

If + subject + past verb + other words,
subject +
would ('d) + verb + other words.

OR

Subject + would ('d) + verb + other words +
if + subject +
past verb + other words.

 

Examples:

If you asked him, he'd help you. /
He
'd help you if he asked him.

(You haven't asked him, so he can't help you.)

 

If I had a lot of money, I'd travel
around the world. / I
'd travel around
the world if I
had a lot of money.

(I don't have a lot of money, so I can't
travel around the world.)

 

If companies sold affordable cars,
I
'd buy one. / I'd buy a car if companies
sold affordable ones.

(Companies don't sell cars that are
affordable for me, so I can't buy one.)

 

Important: In the examples above, there is a difference in
tense and time (that is, using past tense forms for situations
that are in
present or future time). This difference in tense
and time signals that the situation is unreal, hypothetical, and
contrary to fact.

 

Special Notes:

1.   

In formal writing, present / future unreal
conditionals with BE use
were for I, you, he,
she, it, we, and they:

If I / you / he / she / it / we / they were here . . .

In casual conversation and very informal writing,
was (usually pronounced "wuz") is often used
instead of
were.

     
2.  

It's most common, in this type of conditional,
to use
would in the result clause, but could and
might are also possible:

If he were here today, he could / might
help you.

If I were rich, I could / might travel
around the world.

If I had a lot of money, I could / might travel
around the world.

If companies sold affordable cars,
I
could / might buy one.

     
3.  

If would shows willingness, it may appear
in both the condition and the result:


If she
would study, she would get good grades.

(She isn't willing to study, so she probably
won't get good grades.)

 

If he would play fair, we would ask him
to be on the team.

(He isn't willing to play fair, so we aren't
willing to ask him to be on the team.

     
4.  

Would cannot be used in the condition if it
doesn't refer to willingness:

strange:
*If I would be young, I would have more energy.

strange:
*If he would have enough time, he would
help you.

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