All conditional / hypothetical sentences consist of a dependent clause beginning with if (or other adverbials of condition) and an independent clause which is a result of the condition or hypothesis. A conditional sentence is one that is real or possibly can happen; a hypothetical sentence is one that is only imaginary - it either will not happen or did not happen.
Class One: Conditional
A. Present or future situation: True and Real or Possible
If + present tense verb, will or future implied verb (can, might, want, need, etc.)
If my sister visits Seattle, I will take her to Mount Rainier.
If we go there, I want to take a picnic lunch.
B. General Truth situations, not for a specific time, something is always true and never changes. It is True and Real or Possible
If + present tense verb, present tense verb
If plants have good soil and get enough sunlight and water, they always grow well.
If a car runs out of gas, it stops.
C. Past Situations: True and Completed Actions in the Past
If + past tense, past tense
If my father caught fish, he was happy.
If my grandmother cooked dinner when I was a boy, I always ate a lot.
D. Alternate Form for the Present and Future Situations: Should
We can use should in Class One conditional sentences in the present and future when we are not sure of the condition. Only if the condition happens will the result happen. It gives a feeling of uncertainty (not sure of something).
If you should receive a letter from John, please tell me.
Should you receive a letter from John, please let me know.
If you should get stopped by a policeman, you must have your driver's license with you or you will get a ticket.
Should you get stopped by a policeman, you must have your driver's license with you or you will get a ticket.
Class Two: Hypothetical
A. Present or Future Situations - will not or are not very likely to occur- Not Real, Not Possible,
If + past tense verb, would or could + verb stem
If I had a million dollars, I would go on a long vacation.
If I played professional baseball, I could make a lot of money.
B. Verb To Be: Were
In Class Two Conditionals, when you need to use the verb To Be, always use were after if.
(This is called the subjunctive.)
If + subject + were, would or could + verb stem.
If I were a bird, I could fly.
If she were my daughter, I would love her.
C. Alternate Form for Present Hypothetical Situations: Were
Were may be used in place of if to form the Class Two Conditionals; however, this is usually only done in very formal situations.
Were + noun, would or could + verb stem
Were + subject + infinitive, would or could + verb stem
If you were an American, you would not take ESL classes.
Were you an American, you would not take ESL classes.
If I were a woman, I could have a baby.
Were I a woman, I could have a baby.
If I bought a new car, my wife would be happy.
Were I to buy a new car, my wife would be happy.
If I went to Russia, I would visit Moscow.
Were I to go to Russia, I would visit Moscow.
Class Three: Hypothetical
A. Past Situations - Did Not Happen, Not Real, Imaginary
If + past perfect tense, past tense modal (would have, could have, might have, should have + past participle of verb)
If I had won the lottery last week, I would have bought a new car.
If you had grown up in America, you could have learned English as a child.
B. Alternate Form with Had
The meaning is the same using this form; however, it has a more elegant sound to it.
Had + subject + past participle of verb, past tense modal.
If I had known your address, I would have visited you.
Had I known your address, I would have visited you.
If you had stayed in your native country, you would not have had me as your teacher.
Had you stayed in your native country, you would not have had me as your teacher.
Please note that with this alternate form that the negative is formed by making the past participle negative.
If I hadn't prepared this handout, this lesson would have been more difficult for you to understand.
Had I not prepared this handout, this lesson would have been more difficult to understand.
If I hadn't gone to Tunisia, I might not have learned to speak French.
Had I not gone to Tunisia, I might not have learned to speak French.
If I hadn’t prepared this handout yesterday, we wouldn’t have studied it today.
Had I not prepared this handout yesterday, we wouldn’t have studied it today.
Class Four: Mixed Hypothetical - Past Influences the Present or Future
Both situations are imaginary. Neither one is a fact.
A past hypothetical situation (imaginary, did not happen, or is contrary to fact) influences a present or future hypothetical situation. This is actually a combination of a Class Three Conditional and a Class Two Conditional.
If + past perfect tense, would or could + verb stem.
If my grandmother had taught me to speak Italian when I was a little boy, I would speak Italian as well as a native speaker of Italian now. However, she didn’t teach me to speak Italian.
If you had stayed in your native country, you could not attend this school. However, you didn’t stay in your native country. You came to America and to my class.
Class Five: Mixed Hypothetical - Past Possible Influences the Present or Future
The condition might have happened. If it did, we know the results.
A past situation - possibly real, possibly happened, but you do not know or are not sure - influences a real present or future situation. This is actually a combination of a Class One, Past Real Conditional, and a Class One, Present/Future Conditional.
If + past tense, present tense or future tense.
If my sister won yesterday's lottery, she is definitely happy today.
If he fixed his car this morning, he will come to the party tonight.
We don’t know if the condition is real (or if it did happen), but we do know that if it is in fact true, then the result is for sure real.
Exercise 11: Answer the following questions about hypothetical situations in the past that did not happen, please.
1. What would you have done for a living if you had stayed in your native country?
2. Would you have had me for a teacher if you had gone to a different college?
3. What would you have done today if you had stayed home and not come to class?
4. Would you have learned English if you had not come to America?
5. What kind of restaurant would you have gone to last weekend if you had decided to eat out instead of eating in?
6. How would your life have been different if you had learned English very well before you came to the United States?
7. What kind of clothes would you have worn to school if it had snowed last night?
8. What would you have done differently if you had been smarter as a younger person?
9. If your teacher hadn’t come to class today, what would you have done?
10. What would you have done if there had been a fire in your house last night?
11. What might you have bought last week if you had had extra money?
12. If you had already learned English perfectly before you came to America, what would you have studied at university?
13. If you had won a million dollars in the lottery in your country, would you have come to America?
Exercise 12: Complete the following past hypothetical (unreal) sentences, using the correct verb tenses, please.
1. My father and mother would have graduated from university if
2. If I had been in Japan during the earthquake and tsunami,
3. If I had been born in America,
4. I would have learned English as a child if
5. I could have stayed in my native country if
6. If my friend hadn’t smoked all her life,
7. If there had been class on Friday afternoon,
8. If I had studied harder as a young student,
9. My friend’s wife might have learned how to swim if
10. I could have gone to the party last weekend if
11. If I had known that the restaurant was so expensive,
12. If I had been arrested last night,
13. If America hadn’t gotten into a war with Iraq,
14. My son might have bought a car last weekend if
Exercise 13: Complete these sentences, please. Be careful to use the correct verb tenses.
1. If it rains tomorrow,
2. If I saw a tiger running loose in Seattle,
3. If I had had more money,
4. If my mother wants to make some tea,
5. If I had ten children,
6. If I had lived a thousand years ago,
7. If people always did what they were supposed to do,
8. If your teacher had gone to jail for twenty years,
9. If it is sunny tomorrow,
10. If my friend asked me to do him a favor,
11. If my teacher hadn’t given me this homework assignment,
12. If I weren’t an ESL student,
13. If I graduate from college,
14. If I had looked at this handout,
15. If this were not the last sentence in this homework assignment,
Exercise 14: Answer these questions, please. Make sure to use the correct verb tenses.
1. If you were a teacher, would you give a lot of homework to students?
2. Should you run into me during the weekend, will you say hello?
3. Were you to win the lottery, would you give some of the money away?
4. Had you been President Bush, would you have gone to war with Iraq?
5. If you get a high-paying job, will you buy a house?
6. Had you stayed in your country, what would you be doing right now?
7. If your mother cooked food for you as a child, did you eat it?
8. Were your teacher to assign a composition for homework, would you do it?
9. Had you been born the opposite sex, would your name still be the same as it is now?
10. Might you have learned English had you stayed in your native country?
11. Could you study English if you were an elephant?
12. If you weighed as much as an elephant, could you buy your clothes in a regular store?
13. Had you gone on a two-week vacation last Friday, would you be in class today?
14. If I had married your mother, what would your relationship to me be?
15. Were you ten years younger, where would you be right now?
Exercise 15: Complete the following sentences, please.
1. If I hadn’t completed my homework assignment before I came to class,
2. My friend would come for a visit to Seattle if
3. Some people steal
4. Had I known a long time ago what I know now,
5. I would love to spend a lot of time traveling around the world
6. If I knew how to cook as well as my friend,
7. Were I to become injured in an accident,
8. If I lost my job,
9. If I wake up early tomorrow morning,
10. Should I get a ticket for speeding,
11. Had I won last week’s lottery,
12. If my parents were alive,
13. I would have gone to the cinema on Saturday evening if
14. Had I received a raise in pay last week,
15. Were this not the last sentence in this exercise,