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Adverbial Clauses 4. Conditional - Func. Grammar
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Conditional Sentences
(Designed by michelle using “Advanced English Practice”, by B.D. Graver, Oxford University Press, 1988) - Printer-friendly version worddoc (1 page + 1 page of exercises)

Preliminary comment: Conditional sentences are not the conditional tense (would + to-less infinitive). Conditional sentences are made up of two clauses, one with a conjunction, often if. E.g.: If you like it, you can keep it. These two clauses can be reversed: You can keep it if you like it. Notice the use of the comma. The Conditional tense is formed with “would” + bare infinitive.
Remember: hubiera o hubiese = had; habría = would have.

Type O: cause and effect - If + present  present
These sentences are statements of universal truth or general validity. If corresponds closely in meaning to when(ever).

What happens when you don’t water plants?;  If you don’t water plants, they die
Generally speaking, when it is raining, people get blue

Statements like this commonly appear in factual discussions or explanatory (scientific and technical) texts. There can be a variation past/past. In the Middle Ages, when it was raining people got blue. In both cases, present-present, past-past, notice the tenses in both clauses are the same.

Type 1: open conditions - If + present will; will + another modal; or Imperative
Open conditions are conditions that may or may not be fulfilled. We make them when the action or event mentioned in the conditional clause is being considered, is under discussion or appears likely to happen:

If you lose it, I’ll kill you!; If you lose it, I’ll have to kill you; If you lose it, commit suicide!

Type 2: tentative, hypothetical and unreal conditions - If + past would-modal
(present or future time reference)

The conditional clause here represents what is:

Degrees of decreasing probability


Possible: Suppositional or tentative but possible

If we caught the next train, we’d get there on time.
Compare this (more suppositional) with this: If we catch the next train, we’ll get there on time. Type 2 is sometimes used to be more polite, really, less pushy!

Hypothetical/imaginary but not impossible

If I won the lottery, I’d quit my job.

Contrary to present fact, unreal situation
conveyed by the use of the past in the cond. cl.

If I knew how it worked [I actually don’t know!], I’d tell you how to use it.

The verb in the conditional clause represents the attitude of thee speaker towards the conditions, not time (which is indicated by other elements in the situation, if any).

I wish / If only / I’d rather / It’s (about/high) time
There is a set of expressions which force us to use the past tense: I wish you were here;  If only we found it!;  I’d rather you spoke frankly; It’s time we left.
Whenever we want to invite co-operation or indicate that people or events frustrate our desires, instead of the past we use would: I wish you would hurry up!;  I wish it’d stop raining! If only it’d stop raining!

Type 3: unreal conditions - If + past perfect  perfect modal (past time reference)
Completely hypothetical situations, totally contrary to past fact!

If we had caught that train, we’d have arrived on time! [Bloody hell! We didn’t catch it!]

Conjunctions introducing conditional sentences - Si… = If; Si no / A no ser que… = Unless

Type 0: IF = WHEN(EVER) – If I make a promise, I keep it.
IF = AS, SINCE, BECAUSE – If you haven’t done your homework, you won’t be able to follow this lesson.
SUPPOSE/SUPPOSING – Suppose I go to NY, what will you do? Suppose I went to NY,  what would you do? Suppose I had been to New York, what would you have done?

An exercise based on these notes in the Word version above