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Future Conditionals

Future Real Conditional

FORM

[If / When ... Simple Present ..., ... Simple Future ...]

[... Simple Future ... if / when ... Simple Present ...]

Notice that there is no future in the if- or when-clause.

USE

The Future Real Conditional describes what you think you will do in a specific situation in the future. It is different from other Real Conditional forms because, unlike the present or the past, you do not know what will happen in the future. Although this form is called "real", you are usually imagining or guessing about the future. It is called "real" because it is still possible that the action might occur in the future. Carefully study the following examples and compare them to the Future Unreal Conditional examples further down the page.

Examples:

  • If I go to my friend's house for dinner tonight, I will take a bottle of wine or some flowers.
    I am still not sure if I will go to his house or not.
  • When I have a day off from work, I am going to go to the beach.
    I have to wait until I have a day off.
  • If the weather is nice, she is going to walk to work.
    It depends on the weather.
  • Jerry will help me with my homework when he has time.
    I have to wait until he has time.
  • I am going to read if there is nothing on TV.
    It depends on the TV schedule.
  • A: What are you going to do if it rains?
    B: I am going to stay at home.

IMPORTANT If / When

Both "if" and "when" are used in the Future Real Conditional, but the use is different from other Real Conditional forms. In the Future Real Conditional, "if" suggests that you do not know if something will happen or not. "When" suggests that something will definitely happen at some point; we are simply waiting for it to occur. Notice also that the Simple Future is not used in if-clauses or when-clauses.

Examples:

  • When you call me, I will give you the address.
    You are going to call me later, and at that time, I will give you the address.
  • If you call me, I will give you the address.
    If you want the address, you can call me.

Future Unreal Conditional

FORM 1 (Most Common Form)

[If ... Simple Past ..., ... would + verb ...]

[... would + verb ... if ... Simple Past ...]

Notice that this form looks the same as Present Unreal Conditional.

USE

The Future Unreal Conditional is used to talk about imaginary situations in the future. It is not as common as the Future Real Conditional because English speakers often leave open the possibility that anything MIGHT happen in the future. It is only used when a speaker needs to emphasize that something is impossible. Because this form looks like Present Unreal Conditional, many native speakers prefer Form 2 described below.

Examples:

  • If I had a day off from work next week, I would go to the beach.
    I don't have a day off from work.
  • I am busy next week. If I had time, I would come to your party.
    I can't come.
  • Jerry would help me with my homework tomorrow if he didn't have to work.
    He does have to work tomorrow.

FORM 2

[If ... were + present participle ..., ... would be + present participle ...]

[... would be + present participle ... if ... were + present participle ...]

USE

Form 2 of the Future Unreal Conditional is also used to talk about imaginary situations in the future. Native speakers often prefer this form over Form 1 to emphasize that the conditional form is in the future rather than the present. Also notice in the examples below that this form can be used in the if-clause, the result, or both parts of the sentence.

Examples:

  • If I were going to Fiji next week, I would be taking my scuba diving gear with me. In if-clause and result
    I am not going to go to Fiji and I am not going to take my scuba gear with me.
  • If I were not visiting my grandmother tomorrow, I would help you study. In if-clause
    I am going to visit my grandmother tomorrow.
  • I am busy next week. If I had time, I would be coming to your party. In result
    I am not going to come to your party.

FORM 3

[If ... were going to + verb ..., ... would be + present participle ...]

[... would be + present participle ... if ... were going to + verb ...]

USE

Form 3 of the Future Unreal Conditional is a variation of Form 2 which is also used to talk about imaginary situations in the future. Notice that this form is only different from Form 2 in the if-clause. Native speakers use Form 3 to emphasize that the conditional form is a plan or prediction in the same way "be going to" is used to indicate a plan or prediction.

Examples:

  • If I were going to go to Fiji next week, I would be taking my scuba diving gear with me.
    I am not going to go to Fiji and I am not going to take my scuba gear with me.
  • If I were not going to visit my grandmother tomorrow, I would help you study.
    I am going to visit my grandmother tomorrow.

IMPORTANT Only use "If"

Only the word "if" is used with the Past Unreal Conditional because you are discussing imaginary situations. "When" cannot be used.

Examples:

  • I would buy that computer tomorrow when it were cheaper. Not Correct
  • I would buy that computer tomorrow if it were cheaper. Correct

EXCEPTION Conditional with Modal Verbs

There are some special conditional forms for modal verbs in English:

would + can = could

would + shall = should

would + may = might

The words "can," "shall" and "may" cannot be used with "would." Instead, they must be used in these special forms.

Examples:

  • If I went to Egypt next year, I would can learn Arabic. Unfortunately, that's not possible. Not Correct
  • If I went to Egypt next year, I could learn Arabic. Unfortunately, that's not possible. Correct

The words "could," should," "might" and "ought to" include conditional, so you cannot combine them with "would."

Examples:

  • If I didn't have to work tonight, I would could go to the fitness center. Not Correct
  • If I didn't have to work tonight, I could go to the fitness center. Correct

Future Real Conditional vs. Future Unreal Conditional

To help you understand the difference between the Future Real Conditional and the Future Unreal Conditional, compare the examples below:

Examples:

  • If you help me move tomorrow, I will buy you dinner. Future Real Conditional
    I don't know if you can help me.
  • If you helped me move tomorrow, I would buy you dinner. Future Unreal Conditional
    You can't help me, or you don't want to help me.

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