Definition of a conditional clause
clause is a type of subordinate clause, most commonly introduced by the
Like most subordinate clauses introduced by a conjunction,
the conditional clause can either
the main clause, or after
types of conditional statement in English:
Open if clause - the open
usually refers to a future event which is conditional on another future
The verb of the main
clause is in the future tense with "will
sometimes another modal). The verb of the conditional
clause is in
the simple present tense.
- If you
eat too much, you'll
- You'll get
fatter if you eat too much.
- If everyone works fast, we'll finish
- We won't finish in time unless everyone
- If I go to London, I can
- If you visit Scotland, you should visit
- Unless the directors can increase
sales, we'll have to close this shop.
the open conditional statement describes one potential state of reality
circumstance which is dependent on another. In this case, both verbs
are in the present
I sleep well at night, I
feel much happier next morning.
- If the
temperature falls below zero, it
- If it
rains, everyone gets wet.
conditional statement, if
is sometimes replaced by when:
but there is
a difference. Using "if
implies that the condition really is open and may not be fulfilled,
the condition will be fulfilled, that the event will really take place.
2. Type 2 if clauses - the open hypothetical
refers to a possible future situation
which depends on on another possible future situation. The verb of the main
clause uses the present conditional tense (would + infinitive,
The verb of the conditional
clause normally uses the present
subjunctive or preterite (these two tenses are identical except with to be).
Occasionally, the conditional aspect of the statement can be emphasised
by using the form were
+ to + infinitive.
- 1A If
you ate too much, you'd
(you would) get fatter.
- 1B You'd get fatter if you ate
- 2A If everyone
worked faster, we would /
could finish in time.
- 2B We wouldn't finish in time
everyone worked faster.
- 2C If everyone were to work
faster, we would/could finish in time.
- 3 If I went to
London, I would / could
visit the British Museum.
- 4. If you visited Scotland,
you could see Edinburgh Castle.
- 5 Unless the
sales, we'd have to close this shop.
also this common expression (which
uses the open hypothetical form,
though it is clearly quite impossible!)
If I were you, I'd ..........
As in: If
I were you, I'd go a bit slower / If I were you,
I'd put that gun down !!
This form is also used in cases of reported
- My professor told me I'd do much better if I
- The magistrate informed him
that he'd go to
unless he stopped stealing.
- The newspaper reported that
directors could increase sales, they'd have to close the
Type 3 if clauses - the unfulfilled
This refers to
a situation which an event might
taken place, but did not
a condition was not
The verb of the main
goes in the past conditional (would
+ past participle).
verb of the conditional
clause goes in the past perfect (had
- If you
had eaten too much,
you'd (you would) have got fatter.
have got fatter if you'd eaten too
everyone had worked fast, we'd have
finished in time (but
wouldn't have finished in time
unless everyone had worked fast (but we did).
- If I
had gone to London, I could have
visited the British Museum (but
- If you
had visited Scotland, you could
have visited Edinburgh Castle
(but you didn't).
we'd been very confident of
success, we wouldn't have even tried.
we were confident, we did try, and we succeeded).
Note: using "
"Unless" means the same as "if ...
not", and has a negative value. It is frequently (but not only) used in
conditional statements where the verb of the main clause is
in the negative.
- You wouldn't have fallen over unless there'd been a banana
skin on the ground.
have fallen over if there hadn't been a banana skin on the
Omission of "if",
or unfulfilled hypothetical
can be expressed omitting
the word if
When this happens the subject
in the conditional
- Were the virus
to reappear, hospitals would now be ready for it. (open
If the virus reappeared,
hospitals would now be ready for
If the virus were to
reappear, hospitals would now be
ready for it.
known, I'd never have gone there (unfulfilled hypothesis;
implying "I did go there because I did not know".)
I had known, I'd never
have gone there.