# Advanced Conditionals Explained. Real Conditionals

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4 4 Advanced Conditionals If I had free time, I could go snowboarding. Real conditionals in the future When we talk about the future, we use real conditionals to say that we think the condition is possible or likely. Usually, we use if + present simple, will + infinitive. This is the classic first conditional. Remember that in this case, even though we use the present tense, it has a future meaning. (This is similar to using the present to talk about the future in other subordinate clauses in English, like after when or as soon as. See my present simple page for more information.) If it rains, I ll stay at home. This means that I think it s possible or likely that it will rain, and if it rains, then I will definitely stay at home. We can also use other present tenses in the if-clause. If it s raining at 10am, I ll stay at home. We use the present continuous because in this conditional, we imagine that the rain started before 10am and will finish after 10am. At 10am, the action of raining will be happening. Even though we re using the present continuous, we re still talking about future rain. We can use be going to in the main clause. This gives a feeling of we intend to stay at home. If it rains, I m going to stay at home. We can use an imperative in the main clause. If it rains, take your umbrella! If it rains, don t forget to close the windows. We can use modal verbs in the main clause. If I think that the condition is probably going to happen but I m not certain that the result will happen even if the condition does, then I can use a different modal in the main clause. We don t use would in this case. If it rains, we might stay at home. If it rains, we may stay at home. If it rains, we can stay at home. If it rains, we should stay at home. If it rains, we could stay at home. If it rains, we must stay at home. We can use can, may and must with their usual meanings in the if-clause. If I must, I ll come at 10am. If I can, I ll come at 10am. If I may, I ll come at 10am. (= If I m allowed, I ll come at 10am.)

5 5 Advanced Conditionals We can make the condition less certain by using should or happen to or both in the if-clause. Should is extremely formal and sounds old-fashioned now. These examples mean that I am not very sure that it will rain. If it should rain, I ll stay at home. If it happens to rain, I ll stay at home. If it should happen to rain, I ll stay at home. We can make a first conditional very formal by dropping if and using should with inversion. Should it rain, I will stay at home. We can use will or won t in the if-clause when we re using them with their modal meanings of willingness / refusal / insistence. Otherwise, we don t use a future tense in the if-clause. If he won t help, I won t either. (= If he refuses to help.) If you ll arrive early, I ll be very grateful. (= If you re willing to come early.) If you will smoke so much, of course you ll get a sore throat. (= If you insist on smoking so much.) We can use will have + past participle (the future perfect) in the main clause to talk about something that will happen before another point in the future. If we don t hurry up, the film will have started. If we miss this train, our flight will have left (when we get to the airport). Mixed time real conditionals We can use a past tense or the present perfect in the if-clause to say that we re not certain that action in the ifclause really happened, but if it did happen, this is the result. If John has seen my message, he ll be on his way here. (I don t know if John has seen my message or not, but if he has, he ll be on his way here.) We can also use a past tense or present perfect in the if-clause when we think the condition in the if-clause happened, and we want to draw a conclusion from it. If Julie went to the concert last night, she ll be tired today. (I think Julie went to the concert, so I assume she ll be tired today.) If she caught the train, she should be here by now. We can use the present continuous in the if-clause and a future tense in the main clause if we want to say that a situation happening now will have an effect on the future. If David s studying now, I ll turn the music down. It s sometimes possible to have an if-clause referring to the present or future and a main clause referring to the past, especially with must have and can t have for deductions If she got 100% on the exam, she must have studied very hard.

6 6 Advanced Conditionals Is it a zero or a first conditional? This sometimes seems a tricky distinction, but actually the tenses in real conditionals follow the normal tense rules. So, if you re talking about something that s generally true or a habit, then you need the present simple in the main clause (in the same way that you d use the present simple for habits or general truths in a normal nonconditional sentence). And if you re talking about something that will happen in the future, then you need a first conditional. In some situations, you can use either they are both correct. If you go out in the sun without sun cream, you get burned. (= A general truth. This happens every time you go out in the sun.) If you go out in the sun without sun cream, you ll get burned. (= A prediction about the future. I think if you go out without sun cream later today, then after that you will get burned.) When and if For general truths conditionals, present habit conditionals and past habit conditionals, we can replace if with when or whenever. When / whenever you mix oil with water, it floats. When / whenever you add two and two, you get four. When / whenever my husband cooks dinner, I clean up. When / whenever John goes to London, he visits his sister. When / whenever we didn t want to cook, we went to a restaurant. When / whenever my father was reading, we weren t allowed to disturb him. For habits, if tends to mean that something doesn t happen very often, whereas when suggests it happens regularly. When I have a day off, I like to go swimming. (I often have days off.) If I have a day off, I like to go swimming. (I don t often have days off.) This is different with future conditionals (the first conditional). With future conditionals, when and if have very different meanings. If it stops raining, we ll go out. (I don t know if it is going to stop raining or not.) When it stops raining, we ll go out. (I m sure that it will stop raining later.)

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