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I am reading the grammar book "Practical English Usage" by Michael Swan. In the book it stated when we are not talking about 'unreal' situations, we use the same tenses with if as with other conjunctions.

If you didn't study physics at school, you won't understand this book.

To the best of my knowledge, only type 3 can be used to talk about unreal situations. And in the quote above, it is probably type 1, which the tenses should be present tense and will + infinitive.

My question is: Why shouldn't I use would instead of will, given that would is the past form of will? I used to learn that the "result" part is in future tense. Is it that will a fixed formula which I have to use will regardless of the time I am referring to?

Thanks.

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    Are you asking: if this is type 1, why is the first part past tense? Because you went to school in the past. And you haven't read the book yet, so the second part is in the future. These "three conditionals" taught in ESL classes are a drastic simplification of how native English speakers use conditional sentences. – Peter Shor Jun 4 '16 at 12:53
  • I'm asking why even the sentence is in past tense, the second part (the result) is still will but not would, as the book said we use the past tense to refer to past events even in conditional sentences. – Derrick Tsang Jun 4 '16 at 13:21
  • If the second part were would, it would mean something different. – Peter Shor Jun 4 '16 at 13:22
  • "If you study physics in school, then you will understand this book." "If you do not study physics in school, then you will not understand this book." "If you studied physics in school, you will understand this book." "If you did not study physics in school, you will not understand this book." "Had you studied physics in school, you would understand this book." "Had you not studied physics in school, you would not understand this book." "If you had studied physics in school, you would understand this book." "If you had not studied physics in school, you would not understand this book." Etc. – Mark Hubbard Jun 4 '16 at 13:54
  • You wouldn't use would because it doesn't mean the same thing if you did. English has no such rules as you here seem to imagine (and which I'm sure you've been taught — but those teachers were wrong I’m sorry to report), just hundreds of combinations with most meaning something slightly different. As @PeterShor observes, the many ways native speakers compose conditional constructs in English is a far cry from the dangerously simplistic (non-)“rules” used in fast-tracked ESL courses. – tchrist Jun 4 '16 at 15:37

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