top of page
  • Writer's pictureRebekah Olson

Conditional Love

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

The conditional doesn't get enough love - let's change that with a fun, musical look at this mood.


WHAT IS THE CONDITIONAL?


Conditionals are used to speculate (guess/think/imagine/wonder/declare) about…

  1. what happens... if something else happens

  2. what happens... if something will happen

  3. what might have happened… if something else had happened

  4. what we wish would happen… if something were different

  5. what would be happening now… if something else had happened

There are different types of conditionals that we’ll look at later, but for now, let’s look at how we build them.


 

HOW TO CONSTRUCT A CONDITIONAL


In English, most conditional sentences use “if” (also “when” and “unless”) or an invisible “if”.


An invisible “if” is an “if” that could be added into the sentence to clarify but not change the meaning of the sentence.


Example: Were I rich, I would buy a big house

=

If I were rich, I would buy a big house.


Example: Had she loved me as I loved her, we would still be together

=

If she had loved me as I loved her, we would still be together


Notice how adding “if” into the sentence means we have to move the verb from first position to third, after the pronoun: “were I” becomes “if I were”.

As you can see from the above examples, all conditional constructions have two clauses: the main clause and the if clause. These two clauses can be placed in any order.


Example: If you eat more candy, you’ll feel sick later.

You’ll feel sick later if you eat more candy.


Notice how if the if clause comes first, we must insert a comma before the main clause.

A clause contains a predicate (verb) and a subject (noun). Some clauses can be their own sentences (independent); others cannot (dependent).

 

CONDITIONAL TYPES


We refer to the different usages of the conditional as “types”. Below is a quick summary of the conditional types, when they’re used, and how they’re formed.


Conditional

Usage

If clause

verb tense

Main clause

verb tense

Example

Type 0

​General truths

Simple present

Simple present

If it rains, the grass gets wet.

Type 1

A possible condition...

its probable result

Simple present

simple future

If it rains, the grass will get wet.

Type 2

A hypothetical condition… its probable result

Simple past

Present conditional

Present continuous conditional

If it rained, the grass would be wet.

Type 3

​An unreal past condition… its probable result in the past

Past perfect

Perfect conditional

If it had rained, the grass would have been wet.

Mixed type

An unreal past condition... its probable result in the present

Past perfect

Present conditional

If it had rained, the grass would be wet.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these types...



TYPE 0


The time being referred to in a zero type conditional is now or always and the situation is real or possible. It’s often used for general truths and instructions. Sometimes, the word "if" can be replaced by "when" without changing the meaning.


Both clauses are in the simple present.


General truth: If this happens, that happens.

If it rains, the grass gets wet.

When it rains, the grass gets wet.


Instructions: If this happens, do this.

If my mom calls, tell her I’m not home.


🎵 In their song, "If I die young", The Band Perry uses the Type 0 Conditional. Listen to spot when:


 

TYPE 1


The time being referred to in a type 1 conditional is the present or future where the situation is real. It is used to refer to a possible condition and its probable result.


The if clause is in the simple present, and the main clause is in the simple future.


Possible truth: If this happens, that will happen.

If it rains today, soccer practice will be canceled.


Modal: If you drop that glass, it might break.

You should answer the phone if he calls you.


🎵 In their song, "If You Leave Me Now", Chicago uses the Type 1 Conditional. Listen to spot when:


 

TYPE 2


The time being referred to in a type 2 conditional is now or any time, and the situation is unreal. These sentences are not based on fact, but a hypothetical condition and its probable result.


The if clause is in the simple past, and the main clause is in the present conditional.


Possible result: If this happened, that would happen

If I spoke German, I would be living in Germany.

You wouldn't be smiling if you knew the truth.

What would you do, if I sang out of tune?


Modal: If I could turn back time, I would take back those words that hurt you.


Subjunctive: She would go on a date with me if I were taller.


Notice in the last example, we say, “if I were” and not “if I was”. This is called the subjunctive, and it is used for hypothetical or doubtful situations. Unlike sentences with “if I was” (e.g., “I apologize if I was rude”, where it is possible I was indeed rude), subjunctive sentences are contrary to current fact.

🎵 Both Beyonce in her song "If I were a boy" and Taylor Swift in her son "The Man" use the type 2 Conditional, BUT only one of these pop icons uses it correctly. Can you figure out who?



That's right, Taylor Swift is incorrectly singing, "if I was a man" when she should be singing "if I were a man". So, lesson learned: be Beyonce, not T-Swift!


 

TYPE 3


The time being referred to in a type 3 conditional is in the past, and the situation is contrary to reality. It is used to refer to an unreal past condition and its probable past result.


The if clause is in the past perfect and the main clause is in the perfect conditional or perfect continuous conditional.


Hypotheticals: If this had happened, that would have happened.


Regret: If you had studied harder, you would have passed the exam.


Modal: If you had worked harder, you might have passed the exam.

You could have been on time if you had caught the bus.


Luck: Youd have gotten wet if it’d rained.


Notice how in that last example, two contractions look the same: ‘d. This is because both “would” and “had” can be contracted into ‘d. To not get confused, remember, “would” never appears in the if-clause so if ‘d appears in the if clause, it must be had.

🎵 In her song, "I Will Survive", Gloria Gaynor uses the Type 3 Conditional. Listen to spot when:



MIXED TYPE


The time being referred to in a mixed type conditional is in the past and the situation is ongoing into the present. It is used to refer to an unreal past condition and its probable result in the present.


The if clause is in the past perfect, and the main clause is in the present conditional.


Unreal past: If this had happened, that would happen.

If I had worked harder in school, I would have a better job now.

If she hadn’t been afraid of flying, she wouldn't have traveled by boat.

If we had looked at the map, we wouldn't be lost.


Modal: I could be a millionaire now if I had invested in ABC Plumbing.

If I had learned to ski, I might be on the slopes right now.

🎵 In her song, "If I Had Only Known", Reba uses the Mixed Type Conditional. Listen to spot when:


 
Be on the lookout for conditionals when listening to English music, reading English books, or watching English TV shows and movies.

We LOVE to use it all the time to describe situations involving
regret, luck, theories, and fantasy.

If you're looking to sound more native when speaking English,
try incorporating the conditional into your every-day speech!

Pretoria Botanical Gardens, South Africa 2011

Recent Posts

See All

Comentarios


bottom of page