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Welcome to this week's writing lesson from

 MyEnglishTeacher.net

Are you writing a report, typing a letter, or building a Web site?  If so, you must have tons of questions about English grammar.  That's why we are pleased to make the following

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       If you go with me, I will pay for the tickets.

Is this sentence about the future or the present?  The answer is the future.  If it is about the future, why do you use the simple present?  That is another good question.

When you write if-sentences (also called conditional sentences), you often do NOT use the tense that you are talking about.  

Take a look at this sentence:

      If oil is discovered in the desert, the oil companies will make lots of money.  

The sentence is about the future, but the if-clause is NOT in the future.  The result (also called the result clause) is in the future.

However, the result is also NOT always in the tense that the speaker is talking about.  Take a look at the following example.

     If Matthew had enough money, he would stay longer in Florida.

What tense (time) is the speaker talking about?  Future?  Past?  Present?  The answer is the present.  So you must be thinking that this is really confusing.  Well, it isn't confusing if you know the rules.

To make things simple, let's say there are 2 kinds of conditional sentencestrue and untrue.  For our purposes, untrue means a situation that is not real or even impossible to happen. 

TRUE conditional sentences in the PRESENT

  If-clause Result clause Example
Grammar >> simple present simple present If anybody comes to my house, my dog always starts barking.

 

TRUE conditional sentences in the FUTURE

  If-clause Result clause Example
Grammar >> simple present will

-OR-

am/is/are going to

If you visit Greece, you will see many historical places.

If the dog sees anybody close to his house, he is going to bark.

And now the UNTRUE sentences...

UNTRUE conditional sentences in the PRESENT

  If-clause Result clause Example
Grammar >> simple past would + simple form of verb If I had enough money, I would invite you all to go bowling.

 

UNTRUE conditional sentences in the FUTURE

  If-clause Result clause Example
Grammar >> simple past would + simple form of verb If I had enough time, I would write her a letter next week. 

 

UNTRUE conditional sentences in the PAST

  If-clause Result clause Example
Grammar >> past perfect would have + past participle If we had gone to Frank's Restaurant, we would have had great pizza. 

Question: What does the following sentence mean?

     Should you get a letter from the bank, please give it to me.

No.  This sentence is NOT advice to a person about what he/she should (ought to) do.  In this situation, should means if.  In English, although the word if is very common, there are other words for if that allow you to be creative in your writing and speech.  The other words for if are:

should
were
had

Now, you are probably thinking: "So, I can just take out if and put in one of the above words."  No.  You can't do that.  There are a few simple rules for using these words.  

Should is used with TRUE conditionals in the PRESENT or FUTURE.  It is usually used when you are not very sure something will happen.  Example:

        Should you get sick, call the doctor immediately.

This is a good sentence, because you are not sure the person to whom you are talking will get sick.  Look at the following sentence.

         Should water reach 100șC, it will boil.

This is NOT a good way to use should.  When water reaches 100șC, it always boils. It is a law of nature.  

It is also acceptable to use should AND if in the same sentence.  Notice the position of should and if.

            If you should get sick, call the doctor immediately.

Were is used with UNTRUE conditionals in the PRESENT or FUTURE when the original sentence has were already in it.

           If I were you, I would visit grandma.

When using were, take away the if and replace it with were only.

           Were I you, I would visit grandma.

Had is used with  UNTRUE conditionals in the PAST

           If we had gone to Frank's Restaurant, we would have had great pizza. 

If is taken out, and had is put in.  Look at the following sentences.

           Had we gone to Frank's Restaurant, we would have had great pizza. 

So, in summary...

This

becomes This

 If you should get . . . 

>  Should you get . . .
 If I were you . . . >  Were I you. . .
 If we had gone . . . >  Had we gone . . .

Quiz Time

Directions: Make conditional sentences with the following situations.  There may be more than one answer!  The first one is done for you.

1. Condition: I smell steak.

    Result: My mouth always waters.

    Answer: If I smell steak, my mouth always waters.

2. Condition: Maria goes to a clothes store.

    Result: She always spends a lot of money.

3. Condition: You vote for President Harold.

    Result: You might be very happy.

4. Condition: I have enough time.  (*untrue present)

    Result: I help you.

5. Condition: I am the boss.  (*untrue present)

    Result: I will give everyone a big pay raise.

6. Condition: The tour group went by bus.  (*untrue past)

    Result: They got there faster.

7. Condition: You receive the package. 

    Result: Bring it to me.

 

 



©2001 Advanced Learning Center and ©2001 MyEnglishTeacher.net.  All rights reserved.

1. Condition: I smell steak.

    Result: My mouth always waters.

    Answers: If I smell steak, my mouth always waters.

                   My mouth always waters if I smell steak.

2. Condition: Maria goes to a clothes store.

    Result: She always spends a lot of money.

    Answer: If Maria goes to a clothes store, she always spends a lot of money.

                   Maria always spends a lot of money if she goes to a clothes store.

3. Condition: You vote for President Harold.

    Result: You might be very happy.

    Answer: If you vote for President Harold, you might be very happy.

                   You might be very happy if you vote for President Harold.

                    If you should vote for President Harold, you might be very happy.

                   Should you vote for President Harold, you might be very happy.

4. Condition: I have enough time.  (*untrue present)

    Result: I help you.

    Answer: If I had enough time, I would help you.

                   I would help you if I had enough time.

5. Condition: I am the boss.  (*untrue present)

    Result: I will give everyone a big pay raise.

    Answer: If I were the boss, I would give everyone a big pay raise.

                   I would give everyone a big pay raise if I were the boss.

                   Were I the boss, I would give everyone a big pay raise.

6. Condition: The tour group went by bus.  (*untrue past)

    Result: They got there faster.

    Answer: If the tour group had gone by bus, they would have gotten there faster.

                   The tour group would have gotten there faster if they had gone by bus.

                   Had the tour group gone by bus, they would have gotten there faster.

7. Condition: You receive the package. 

    Result: Bring it to me.

   Answer: If you receive the package, please bring it to me.

                  Please bring the package to me if you receive it.

                 If you should receive the package, please bring it to me.

                 Should you receive the package, please bring it to me.

 

  Rules to Remember! 

1 The if-clause and the result clause can usually be switched.  

Example:

If you receive the package, please bring it to me.

Please bring the package to me if you receive it.

Note: When the if-clause is in the second part of the sentence, there is no comma.

2 When switching the if-clause and the result clause, consider the logic of where you put a proper name or subject.  

Example:

If the tour group had gone by bus, they would have gotten there faster.

The tour group would have gotten there faster if they had gone by bus.

"The tour group" is mentioned first in BOTH sentences as to not confuse the reader.  You need to make sure the logic of the sentence is correct.  Don't just switch the two clauses to make your sentence creative! 

3 For all UNTRUE conditional sentences in the PRESENT and FUTURE that require the simple past form of to be always use were.  

Example:

If I were the boss, I would give everyone a big pay raise.

Normally, we write I was . . .; however, this sentence is an UNTRUE conditional in the PRESENT.  Therefore, we write If I were . . . 

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