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Conditional clauses using ‘if’

Main points

  • You use conditional clauses to talk about a possible situation and its results.

  • Conditional clauses can begin with ‘if’.

  • A conditional clause needs a main clause to make a complete sentence. The conditional clause can come before or after the main clause.

  1. You use conditional clauses to talk about a situation that might possibly happen and to say what its results might be.

You use ‘if’ to mention events and situations that happen often, that may happen in the future, that could have happened in the past but did not happen, or that are unlikely to happen at all.

If the light comes on, the battery is OK.

I'll call you if I need you.

If I had known. I'd have told you.

If she asked me, I'd help her.

  1. When you are talking about something that is generally true or happens often, you use a present or present perfect tense in the main clause and the conditional clause.

If they lose weight during an illness, they soon regain it afterwards.

If an advertisement does not tell the truth, the advertiser is committing an offence.

If the baby is crying, it is probably hungry.

If they have lost any money, they report it to me.

Warning: You do not use the present continuous in both clauses. You do not say ‘If they are losing money, they are getting angry.’

  1. When you use a conditional clause with a present or present perfect tense, you often use an imperative in the main clause.

Wake me up if you’re worried.

If he has finished, ask him to leave quietly.

If you are very early, don’t expect them to be ready.

  1. When you are talking about something which may possibly happen in the future, you use a present or present perfect tense in the conditional clause, and the simple future in the main clause

If I marry Celia, we will need the money.

If you are going to America, you will need a visa.

If he has done the windows, he will want his money.

Warning: You do not normally use ‘will’ in conditional clauses. You do not say ‘If I will see you tomorrow, I will give you the book.’

  1. When you are talking about something that you think is unlikely to happen, you use the past simple or past continuous in the conditional clause and ‘would’ in the main clause.

If I had enough money, I would buy the car.

If he was coming, he would ring.

Warning: You do not normally use ‘would’ in conditional clauses. You do not say ‘If I would do it, I would do it like this.’

  1. ‘Were’ is sometimes used instead of ‘was’ in the conditional clause, especially after ‘I’.

If I were as big as you, I would kill you.

If I weren’t so busy, I would do it for you.

You often say ‘If I were you’ when you are giving someone advice.

If I were you, I would take the money.

I should keep out of Brendan's way if I were you.

  1. When you are talking about something which could have happened in the past but which did not actually happen, you use the past perfect in the conditional clause. In the main clause, you use ‘would have’ and a past participle.

If he had realised that, he would have run away.

I wouldn’t have been so depressed if I had known how common this feeling is.

Warning: You do not use ‘would have’ in the conditional clause. You do not say ‘If I would have seen him, I would have told him.’


  1. Put the verb into the correct form


  1. You (to speak) better if you (to be) more attentive.

  2. If he (to understand) the situation, he (to act) differently.

  3. He (to catch) the train if he (to make haste).

  4. If I (to be) you, I (to consider) the matter settled.

  5. If only he (to be) here, he (can) tell you.

  6. If I (to be) in your place, I (to think) as you do.

  7. He not (to do) it if you not (to help) him.

  8. If he (to be) present, he (may) object.

  9. She (to come) to see you if she not (to be tired).

  10. If I (to get) the tickets before twelve o'clock, I (to come) straight home.


  1. I think that if we (to take shelter) under these trees, we not (to get wet).

  2. If I (to hesitate) much longer before getting into the water, he not (to let) me swim at all today.

  3. If she (to come) earlier, she (to have been able) to see him before he went out.

  4. He (to go) for a ride with you, if he (to repair) his bicycle.

  5. If a year ago the sailors (to be told) they were to undertake a trip of this sort, they (to be surprised).

  6. If he (to be) present, this not (to occur).

  7. If the storm not (to rage), the ship (to leave) the harbour last night.

  8. If our telephone not (to be) out of order, I (to ring) you up this morning.

  9. If you (to come) between two and three yesterday, you (to find) me at home.

  10. If I (to have) to carry that heavy box, I (to be) obliged to drop it after five minutes.

  11. I not (to go) to sleep over that book if it not (to be) so dull.

  12. If I (to know) you (to come), I of course (to stay) at home.

  13. If anyone (to say) such a thing to me, I (to feel) hurt.

  14. We never (to solve) the riddle, if you not (to put) us on the track.

  1. Open the brackets


  1. If I had known that you were in hospital I (visit) you.

  2. If I (know) that you were coming I'd have baked a cake.

  3. If you (arrive) ten minutes earlier you would have got a seat.

  4. You would have seen my garden at its best if you (be) here last week.

  5. I wouldn't have believed it if I (not see) it with my own eyes.

  6. I (offer) to help him if I had realised that he was ill.

  7. If I (realise) what a bad driver you were I wouldn't have come with you.

  8. If I had realised that the traffic lights were red I (stop).

  9. The hens (not get) into the house if you had shut the door.

  10. If he had known that the river was dangerous lie (not try) to swim across it.

  11. If you (speak) more slowly he might have understood you.

  12. If lie had known the whole story he not be) so angry.

  13. If I (try) again I think that I would have succeeded.

  14. You (not get) into trouble if you had obeyed my instructions.

  15. If I (be) ready when he called he would have taken me with him.

  16. If she had listened to my directions she (not turn) down the wrong street.

  17. If you (look) at the engine for a moment you would have seen what was missing.

  18. I (take) a taxi if I had realised that it was such a long way.

  19. You (save) me a lot of trouble if you had told me where you were going.

  20. If you (not sneeze) he wouldn't have known that we were there.


  1. If I (see) you in the street yesterday, of course I (say) "Good morning."

  2. I'm sorry I threw the newspaper away. I (not throw) it away if I (know) you had wanted it.

  3. Why didn't you ask me to help you? -Of course I (help) you if you (ask) me to.

  4. I'm sorry I couldn't come to the cinema with you last Friday. - I (come) if I (not be) so busy.

  5. I (not cleave) the office early yesterday if I (not finish) my work.

  1. Match these parts to make conditional sentences.

Example: 1 – j

  1. Dan might help you ... a ... if they are enjoying themselves.

  2. You are sure to be late ... b ... if I can remember her phone number.

  3. You'll enjoy the Jacques Tatty film ... c ... if you miss the bus.

  4. They always stay out late ... d ... if you don't want to.

  5. They'll understand it all right... e ... if you phone while I'm out.

  6. I'll give her a call ... f ... if you explain it to them.

  7. Bill will take a message ... g ... if I have the time.

  8. I'll do the shopping ... h ... if you don't have a ticket.

  9. You can't get in ... i ... if you can understand French.

  10. You needn't come to the party ... j ... if you ask him.

  1. Complete these sentences by putting the verb in brackets in the right tense.

Example: If you …ask… Liz, she will tell you what to do. (ask)

  1. He's going to visit some friends in Athens if he time. (have)

  2. You shouldn't interrupt them if they (work)

  3. Maria will get you some money if she to the bank. (go)

  4. I'll have a word with Jack if he at home. (be)

  1. Match these parts to make conditional sentences.

Example: 1 – i

  1. If I had their address ... a ... it would cost over £650.

  2. If you saw her now ... b ... you might earn a bit more money.

  3. If I took more exercise … c ... I could probably stay with Michael.

  4. If you got a new job … d ... she must have been out at work.

  5. If you asked Heather … e ... she would give you a certificate.

  6. If I travelled first class … f ... she would probably give you a lift.

  7. If it was a little warmer … g ... we could go for a swim.

  8. If she didn't answer the phone … h ... I might lose a bit of weight.

  9. If you went to the doctor … i ... I could write and ask them.

  10. If I stopped off in Ankara … j ... you would hardly recognise her.

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