Conditional Statements

Conditional sentences are use to express things that are unreal, nonexistent, or contrary-to-fact.

Conditional sentences always have two clauses; a result clause and an if clause. The conditions are usually stated in the if clause.

The independent clause of the sentence will normally state the result of the condition. The verb in the if clause will never be in the same tense as the verb in the results clause.

Future Conditions are stated using the simple present tense in the if clause and future tense in the result clause.

I will go to the doctor if I feel ill.

Jane will pass if she does well on the final exam.

{Jane will pass} - future tense - Result clause.

{if she does well} - present tense - If or conditional clause.

Present Conditions are stated using the past tense in the if clause and simple present in the result clause. The result clause will also include one of the modal auxiliaries would, could, or might.

I would go to the doctor if I felt ill.

I would be happier if Betty were and A student.

{I would be happier} - present tense + modal - Result clause.

{If Betty were an A student.} - past tense - If or conditional clause.

Past Conditions are stated using the past perfect tense in the if clause. The result clause is expressed using the present perfect plus the modal would, could, or might.

I would have gone to the doctor if I had felt ill.

She would have studied more if she had known how difficult the test would be.

{She would have studied more} - present perfect tense + modal - Result clause.

{If she had known} - past perfect - If or conditional clause

Past perfect is formed by using has + the past participle.

Present perfect is formed by have + the past participle.

When using conditional sentences, the conditional clause may come at the beginning or the end of a sentence.

If a sentence begins with a conditional clause, a comma must be placed after the conditional clause.

I will help you if you need help.

If you need help, I will help you.

When stating a past conditional, the modal would can be replaced with the modals could or might

I would be happier if Betty were an A student.

I could be happier if Betty were an A student.

I might be happier if Betty were an A student.

The modal auxiliaries can and could

Can and could are easily confused by students. Here are some sample sentences to practice with. Learn these, then you can use them as models for other sentences.

If I can go with you, I will. I may be able to go, but I am not sure.

If I could go with you, I would. Unfortunately, I cannot go with you.

If I could have gone with you, I would have. I did not go with you because I wasn't able to go.