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If-Conditionals: Simple Past & Simple Present

In this article, we will learn about if-conditionals and understand the various types of if-clauses. We will also get a deeper understanding of if-conditionals using the simple past and simple present tenses.

If-conditional concepts

If-Conditionals consists of two parts:

  1. If: Assuming that something is true when actually it is not
  2. Condition: Criterion to be fulfilled for something else to happen
  • Conditional: Subject to one or more conditions or criteria being met.

Here are a few examples of if-conditional sentences:

  • If I had known, I would not have gone.
  • If you shout, you’ll get reprimanded.
  • He would have stopped if he had realised.

If-clauses conditional rules

There are three types of if-clauses:

  • If-clauses Type 1: Scenarios that are almost certain to happen either at present or in the future (realistic scenarios)
  • If-clauses Type 2: Situations that are unreal. These will probably never happen, whether at present or in the future.
  • If-clauses Type 3: These are scenarios that did not happen in the past.

Form of If-clause types

Below is a ready reference of the form that the various if-clause types take, along with examples to understand them.

If-clause type

If clause

Main clause

If-clause Type 1

Simple present

Will + infinitive

If-clause Type 2

Simple past

Would + infinitive

If-clause Type 3

Past perfect

Would + have + past participle

Examples:

If-clause type

If clause

Main clause

If-clause Type 1

  1. If the book is good

I will read it

If-clause Type 2

  1. If the book was good

I would read it

If-clause Type 3

  1. If the book had been good

I would have read it

Understanding simple past & simple present

Simple past tense refers to an action that has already happened and is complete. The simple present tense is used to talk about actions happening right now and habitual actions.

It tells us what might have happened if something else was the reality.

Let’s break that down to understand better:

  1. The condition was NOT met
  2. BUT if it was, something would have happened differently

Here’s an illustration to explain it better:

If I spoke Japanese, I would be living in Japan.

Explanation:

  1. Am I living in Japan? No (the condition is not met)
  2. But if I was actually living in Japan, then I would have been speaking Japanese (something would have happened differently).

Note: Spoke is used in the past tense because ‘would be living’ is mentioned in the past tense.

Practice Exercises

Question 1:

If Shiney Jackson ________ the lottery, she would buy a printing press.

  1. Won
  2. Had won
  3. Will win
  4. Wins

Answer:

a) Won

Explanation:

This is an example of a type 2 conditional. It takes the following form,

If clause (i.e. the condition)

Main clause (i.e. the result)

If + simple past

Present conditional or present continuous conditional

If Shiney Jackson won the lottery

she would buy a printing press

Question 2:

If you were a famous celebrity, you _______ every fan a million dollars just for smiling at you. I just know it. It’s in your bones.

  1. Will give
  2. Would give
  3. Shall give
  4. Give

Answer:

b) Would give

Question 3:

I will do my best if I _______ this opportunity. Let me prove myself!

  1. Was given
  2. Were given
  3. Are given
  4. Am given

Answer:

d) Am given

Explanation:

Notice how the sentence ‘I will do my best if I am given this opportunity’ is more certain and forceful compared to ‘I would do my best if I were given this opportunity’.

Question 4:

If your submission comes in the first place, you ________ us all proud.

  1. Make
  2. Had made
  3. Will make
  4. Made 

Answer:

c) Will make

Question 5:

Alise _____ invest in a new bread-maker if she has spare cash.

  1. Would invest
  2. Will invest
  3. Won’t invest
  4. Shall invest

Answer:

b) Will invest

Question 6:

The official court order read, “You _____ time to charity B if you have spare time after completing your community service.”

  1. Would give
  2. Will gives
  3. Won’t give
  4. Shall give

Answer:

d) Shall give

Explanation:

‘Would’ is generally used for referring to things in the past. It also implies a degree of uncertainty.

‘Will’ or ‘shall’ or ‘must’ denotes firmness and is used for referring to something that will happen in the future. If you want someone to do something, you must use the words ‘will’, ‘shall’ or ‘must’.

Conclusion

In this article, we learnt about the if-conditional, the various types of if-clauses, and the form in which each of them is written.

The best way to master these concepts is to use them more often and practise them frequently in your routine interactions with your friends and family.
 

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