An independent clause that refers to a hypothetical situation contingent on another set of circumstance.

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How do the tenses and aspects in English correspond temporally to one another?

Non-native speakers often get confused about what the various tenses and aspects mean in English. With input from some of the folk here I've put together a diagram that I hope will provide some ...
31
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13answers
2k views

Why do I instinctively want to use the present tense with a conditional?

My boss is not a native speaker of English, so he often asks me to correct his writing. The problem is, he wants me to explain why I make changes, and doesn't accept "it just sounds better that way" ...
15
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5answers
15k views

Future tense in conditional clauses

All the textbooks I have ever come across during the course of my studying English emphasize that future tense should not be used in conditional clauses. For example, If it rains in the evening, ...
14
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3answers
4k views

“whether” vs. “if ” [duplicate]

How can I know when should I use whether or if in a sentence? I can not see any difference between whether and if. When should I use each? For me, they are the same and I am not sure if there is a ...
11
votes
5answers
6k views

“When I am 18, I will…” or “When I will be 18, I will…” [duplicate]

Should I say: When I am 18, I'll take my driving test or When I'll be 18, I'll take my driving test Which one is the correct sentence?
10
votes
3answers
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When should I use “Would”, “Would have”, “Will”, and “Will have”?

I hope someone, once and for all, can clarify (with examples) the difference in usage of will vs. would vs. would have vs. will have.
10
votes
2answers
698 views

How does the false-conditional work in “I made sandwiches if you want some”?

This use of "if" has a completely different meaning than its normal conditional meaning. Can someone explain to me how this construction works, and provide other examples of this sort of thing?
10
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4answers
1k views

“Would have” in conditional clauses

I have been taught to use the if I had form in conditional clauses referring to the past: If the president had asked me, I would have told him the same thing. As far as I can tell though, the ...
9
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2answers
6k views

“Will have” vs. “Would have”

By the end of the year, I would have attended this school for five years. Of course, the "most" correct way of writing this would be: By the end of the year, I will have attended this school for ...
9
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3answers
6k views

Different conditional clauses — “if you saw”, “if you were to see”, “if you had seen”

Given the following sentences, what is the difference between the conditional clauses in them? If you saw a lion in a thick forest, what would you do? If you were to see a lion in a thick ...
9
votes
5answers
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“If I knew you're coming I wouldn't have come”

Is the statement If I knew you're coming I wouldn't have come correct? Should we use If I had known you're coming, I wouldn't have come instead? Please consider American-British ...
9
votes
4answers
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Usage of 'had been' or 'were'

I was doing an exercise. I completed the sentence as following. If you were my child, I would have demanded that such an irresponsible teacher be fired. But the answer given in the book is ...
8
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2answers
884 views

Is this an imperative sentence?

Is this sentence an imperative sentence, or does it have conditional meaning? You hang around with riffraff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid, and it’ll rub off on you.
8
votes
5answers
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What's the tense for repetitive past action?

In English, "would" usually denotes a conditional voice. "If I were sleepy, I would go to bed." But I've caught myself using it to denote repetitive or habitual past action. "On Thursdays, we would ...
8
votes
3answers
34k views

“It would be better if you drink/drank all the water” [duplicate]

Which one of the following is grammatically correct? It would be better if you drink all the water. It would be better if you drank all the water. The question is, obviously, about the use ...
8
votes
5answers
31k views

“If I didn't have” vs. “if I hadn't had”

Can someone please tell me if these sentences are correct? I prefer number one. Here I am trying to talk about a past condition that didn't actually happen because the person had the example sentences ...
8
votes
4answers
12k views

Placing a comma after a conditional statement

I've always had difficulties in figuring out where commas should be placed. For example, in a phrase containing a conditional statement, how should I write... If they don't arrive by noon, she'll ...
8
votes
4answers
682 views

Present tense and conditional tense in a stated past tense

I have a question about using past and conditional tenses in a context that refers to something told in the past. I think I’ve seen both forms used in films/books, etc., but I'm not sure about it ...
8
votes
4answers
615 views

Is “I would understand everything you said if you said it in Portuguese” correct?

"I would understand everything you said if you said it in Portuguese." Is it any kind of conditional? And if it is, can you tell me which one? As I wrote this I had the feeling that it should be: ...
7
votes
2answers
5k views

Using “will” after “if”

I've been told that native-speakers don't ever use "will" after "if", and that saying it this way is a not-native style. So from the film (Harry Potter, pt5) I noticed a line that confused me. Look ...
7
votes
4answers
493 views

Why does this conditional feel wrong?

The following phrase is part of a narrative in past tense. My mind has been going in circles around it, so any help would be appreciated. He sighed and replied quickly, as if he had had only a few ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Use of “should have” in conditional sentences

In Return of the Soldier (1918) I came across what appears to be a conditional sentence: I never should have got this telegram if me and my husband hadn't been down there last September and told ...
7
votes
2answers
21k views

“I would have never said” vs. “I would never say”

I know a lot of questions have been asked about would or would have but I haven't found any answers that help me understand this three-party conversation, with C possibly a native speaker: A: How ...
7
votes
2answers
6k views

Comma in conditional sentence and in antithesis

I've got a couple questions: Should I always put comma between condition and consequence parts, like in the following sentence: If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. Should I always ...
6
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5answers
1k views

Is it correct to say: “I would do something, be it me”?

I mean that "I would do something, if it only were me. But it was not me, so I've done nothing".
6
votes
3answers
418 views

Conditionals with multiple verbs

I'm an ESL teacher. Normally I teach lower intermediate but I also teach a mixed level grammar review class. I pride myself on being able to explain things clearly but today I found myself in THREE ...
6
votes
2answers
654 views

Why is it “could” and not “can” in the famous line: “If a face could launch a thousand ships”? [duplicate]

This is from a song lyric If a picture paints a thousand words, Then why can't I paint you? The words will never show the you I've come to know. If a face could launch a thousand ships, ...
6
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2answers
2k views

Using “if” or not in a sentence structure when expressing doubt

I use the following sentence construction a lot. I'm not sure if this is right. I was not aware of any problem until recently I noticed that quite a few of my colleagues used it a little ...
6
votes
1answer
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Conditional sentences not starting with “if”

Were I rich, I would live on Long Island. If I were rich, I would live on Long Island. Is the first sentence still used, or is used in particular contexts (in example, to give emphasis to the ...
6
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1answer
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Subjunctive and conditionals

This is another subjunctive and conditional question. I am interested in the formal, even archaic, uses, not just the modern uses (I am given to understand that the subjunctive is disappearing from ...
6
votes
4answers
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Can the Future Perfect be used in a main clause of a conditional sentence that has a stative/non-action verb in the if-clause?

A student asked me this question today about a sentence like: (1) If Canada's population is 40 million, the Canadian economy will have been more dynamic. I was asked if it corresponded, in a future ...
6
votes
1answer
213 views

What's the truth about the subjunctive and conditional statements, anyway?

I have generally (I would say always, but I'm not sure I always thought this) supposed that in English, uses of the subjunctive are quite limited. They include desires, judgments, etc. ("I desire that ...
6
votes
1answer
453 views

When did it become common to 'double the conditional'? [duplicate]

Twins is a 1988 comedy featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as genetically engineered twins. The fact that they’re genetically engineered is used to explain the differences between Arnold ...
5
votes
3answers
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“Even were he not to…”

I am currently reading "Do androids dream of electric sheep?" by P.K. Dick and I have come across a grammatical structure I don't quite understand. The excerpt is the following (no spoilers, don't ...
5
votes
3answers
613 views

Future tense usage: “When you see it …”

I wonder why the phrase is "When you see it you will shit brix," and not "When you will see it you will shit brix." Is the version with two will incorrect? What grammar rule says that you should not ...
5
votes
2answers
12k views

“If not for you” meaning

Today I have encountered a phrase: If not for you, I would be poor. I would think it is like "if there were not you", is it like that? On the other hand, how would I say the following as the ...
5
votes
1answer
4k views

Speculative conditional: Why does it use the past tense or past perfect tense?

We use simple past to state a hypothetical present situation that we would like to speculate about (If they were here, I would be happy), past perfect for a hypothetical past (had they been here, I ...
5
votes
5answers
124 views

Are the tenses used in the sentence correct?

From http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-07-31: I'm going to call you Carlos from now on. And it would help if you grew a beard and walked with a limp. Shouldn't it be grow a beard and walk with a ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

If and Whether - or not? Interrogative and Conditional words

It's clear to me that in some situations, "if" works but "whether" does not: 1a) If it rains, I shall take my umbrella. 1b) Call me if rain is predicted. Also some where only "whether or not" will ...
5
votes
2answers
470 views

“If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon…”

There is an old quotation attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: If a man write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap than his neighbour, tho' he build his house in the ...
5
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3answers
4k views

What's an example of good style for an “if/then” statement?

I'm not sure what's common for conditional statements, with and without alternative consequent clauses, in speech—even my own—but as a computer programmer, I'm niggled whenever I have to write English ...
5
votes
1answer
606 views

If I was an airline pilot vs. If I had been an airline pilot 10 years ago

In a comment signed by Martha, she wrote that: "If I was an airline pilot" and "If I were an airline pilot" have different meanings. The latter is the subjunctive case (and presumably what ...
5
votes
4answers
344 views

Which dialects of English consider “would” to be a polite form of “will”?

My recent trip to India exposed me to many sentences using "would" as a polite substitute for "will", as in Please make sure to leave on time. The last bus would depart at 8PM. Thanks for ...
4
votes
6answers
61k views

“won't” vs. “wouldn't”

Are these two words interchangeable? How do you know when to use one or the other? For some sentences it is easy to know which one to use, but not for others. The type of sentences that are difficult ...
4
votes
5answers
1k views

Why do we say “I would appreciate it if you paid in cash,” but not “I will appreciate it if you pay in cash”? [closed]

In the dictionary, I found this example (Source): I would appreciate it if you paid in cash. Clearly, this is the conditional sentence, type 2 which expresses something that is impossible in ...
4
votes
2answers
659 views

Conditionals in the future

My colleague and I have a hot discussion about which is correct. My version is: If you don't fix the bug I will send you a patch. and his one is: I would send you a patch if you don't fix ...
4
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6answers
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How to correctly write this conditional phrase?

I’m struggling with a conditional clause. This one is easy: If I were you, I would do xyz ... But I have these three statements: I was a student. It was my vacation. My professor ...
4
votes
3answers
4k views

When is “will” used in an “if” clause?

Given the following sentences that use will in the if clause (which is seldom with if-clauses and therefore, I'm not sure they all are even grammatical or not). If you will/would kindly lend me ...
4
votes
4answers
4k views

Is the conditional a mood or a tense?

Is the conditional a mood or a tense? I've heard it described in both ways. It seems more like a mood as it is often lumped with hypothetical constructions and the subjunctive mood. I could see it ...
4
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4answers
5k views

“If we were in a physical relationship, you just lost sex tonight.” Grammatically correct? [closed]

"If we were in a physical relationship, you just lost sex tonight". This is a line from the TV show, 'Big Bang Theory'. It seems incorrect but I may be wrong.