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Present Conditionals

Present Real Conditional

FORM

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

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

USE

The Present Real Conditional is used to talk about what you normally do in real-life situations.

Examples:

  • If I go to a friend's house for dinner, I usually take a bottle of wine or some flowers.
  • When I have a day off from work, I often go to the beach.
  • If the weather is nice, she walks to work.
  • Jerry helps me with my homework when he has time.
  • I read if there is nothing on TV.
  • A: What do you do when it rains?
    B: I stay at home.
  • A: Where do you stay if you go to Sydney?
    B: I stay with my friends near the harbor.

IMPORTANT If / When

Both "if" and "when" are used in the Present Real Conditional. Using "if" suggests that something happens less frequently. Using "when" suggests that something happens regularly.

Examples:

  • When I have a day off from work, I usually go to the beach.
    I regularly have days off from work.
  • If I have a day off from work, I usually go to the beach.
    I rarely have days off from work.

Present Unreal Conditional

FORM

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

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

USE

The Present Unreal Conditional is used to talk about what you would generally do in imaginary situations.

Examples:

  • If I owned a car, I would drive to work. But I don't own a car.
  • She would travel around the world if she had more money. But she doesn't have much money.
  • I would read more if I didn't watch so much TV.
  • Mary would move to Japan if she spoke Japanese.
  • If they worked harder, they would earn more money.
  • A: What would you do if you won the lottery?
    B: I would buy a house.
  • A: Where would you live if you moved to the U.S.?
    B: I would live in Seattle.

EXCEPTION If I were ...

In the Present Unreal Conditional, the form "was" is not considered grammatically correct. In written English or in testing situations, you should always use "were." However, in everyday conversation, "was" is often used.

Examples:

  • If he were French, he would live in Paris.
  • If she were rich, she would buy a yacht.
  • I would play basketball if I were taller.
  • I would buy that computer if it were cheaper.
  • I would buy that computer if it was cheaper. Not Correct (But often said in conversation.)

IMPORTANT Only use "If"

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

Examples:

  • I would buy that computer when it were cheaper. Not Correct
  • I would buy that computer 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, I would can learn Arabic. Not Correct
  • If I went to Egypt, I could learn Arabic. Correct
  • If she had time, she would may go to the party. Not Correct
  • If she had time, she might go to the party. Correct

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

Examples:

  • If I had more time, I would could exercise after work. Not Correct
  • If I had more time, I could exercise after work. Correct
  • If he invited you, you really would should go. Not Correct
  • If he invited you, you really should go. Correct

EXERCISES AND RELATED TOPICS:

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