There may be two broad kinds of conditional sentences
Read the following three groups of sentences carefully and note the difference:
- If you are late to theatre, you will not be seated until interval.
- If you take the 8:00 a.m. flight to Karachi, you don’t have to change planes.
- If I were a little taller, I’d be able to water the plant on the top shelf.
- If I spoke English, I’d love to talk to the Queen.
- If it had rained last night, it wouldn’t be so hot today.
- If we hadn’t had that problem with the car, we wouldn’t have missed the speech.
Notice that the first group of two sentences is all true. Well, we don’t know about the 08:00 a.m. flight, but it sounds as if the information is being given on good authority! These sentences tell what will happen if certain conditions are met. These are real conditions.
The second group tells what might happen if some unreal conditions were met. I’m not taller, and I don’t speak English. Thus, none of these outcomes will materialize.
The third group just speculates about what would result if past conditions had been different.
These are considered unreal past conditional sentences.
Forming Conditional Sentences
Conditional sentences have two clauses.
- Dependent Clause (“if” clause)
- Independent Clause (“result” clause)
- If you stay in the sun too long, you will get sun burned.
- You will get sunburned if you stay in the sun too long!
- If you drink too much milk, you will get sick.
- You will get sick if you drink too much milk.
The clauses can be reversed. If the dependent clause comes first in the sentence, you must separate them with a comma. You shouldn’t use a comma if the independent clause comes first.
Verb Forms with Conditionals
If clause = present tense
Result clause = future tense
Let’s see the above factual conditions with the help of examples.
- If you eat too much ice cream, (present tense) you’ll get sick. (future tense)
- If Noma needs help, (present tense) she will call us. (future tense)
Unreal Conditions (present)
If clause = simple past
Result clause = would or could + base form of verb
- If I had more time, I’d do exercises every day.
- If you were rich, you could buy a large house in the suburbs.
- If Adil owned a dog, he would play with him every day.
Unreal Conditions (past)
If clause = past perfect
Result clause = would have + past participle or would + be
- If Rehan had dome M.C.S., he would have got a better job.
- If I had invented the personal computer, I would be rich today.
Questions with Conditions
You can, of course, ask questions with conditions.
- Does he get angry if you forget to visit him?
- Would it damage the car if you put some sugar in the petrol tank?
- What happens to your computer if you leave it on all night?
- What would happen if you put some sugar in the petrol tank?
Unreal: What would you do if you got the job? Real: What will you do if you get the job?