I have a question about two “if-then” sentences.

  1. If [past tense] + [past tense]: If they knew, they didn’t say.
  2. If [past tense] + [future tense]: If he missed yesterday, he will be here today.

Neither of these sentences exactly fits the template of the conditional sentence, which will usually combine present and future tenses with modal auxiliaries. But I also can’t see anything wrong with them. Do these belong to the conditional type, or is something else going on here that I don’t see?

  • 1
    There is no such thing as a template for conditional sentences as far as I'm aware of. Can you explain what you mean by that? The only odd thing here is if he missed yesterday doesn't make sense without more context. How could he miss a day? Was he unconscious? Most likely it should be if he missed yesterday's [something]. But that has nothing to do with the conditional itself, which is fine. Jun 2, 2020 at 5:29
  • When I thought of a “template” I suppose I was thinking of “closed conditionals,” which were the only examples I could find online. So: If he missed yesterday’s [something, maybe an appointment], he will be here today. Is that not really a conditional? Jun 2, 2020 at 16:49

1 Answer 1


Both of your examples are examples of the open conditional - the type of conditional where the speaker thinks the condition as likely as not. These come in a variety of combinations depending on the time of the condition and the outcome (CaGEL p.743)

If she leaves, I leave too. [future - future]

If they don’t come, we’re wasting our time. [future - present]

If it doesn’t rise, you didn’t put enough bicarb in. [future - past]

If that’s Jill over there, I’ll ask her to join us. [present - future]

If she’s here, she’s in her office. [present - present]

If he knows the answer, he got it from you. [present - past]

If they batted first they will probably win. [past - future]

If Kim said that, you are entitled to compensation. [past - present]

If Kim didn’t do it, Pat did. [past - past]

It seems you're thinking of remote conditionals, where the speaker thinks the condition unlikely, or impossible. A remote conditional must have a modal auxiliary as the apodosis verb (usually would, should, could, or might in the then... part of the sentence) and a modal preterite or irrealis were in the protasis (the if... part) (CaGEL p739).


If you get it right, you’ll win $100.


If you got / were to get it right, you’d win $100.

Here, both the condition and the outcome are in the future, the only difference being how likely the speaker thinks one or the other.


If Ed is here he can come too.


If Ed was/ were here he could come too.

These are both in the present, with the remote version making clear that Ed is not here.

These also come in a variety of combinations (CaGEL p751):

If I went tomorrow, I would have more time in Paris. [future - future]

If they didn’t carry out tomorrow’s inspection after all we would be wasting our time cleaning up like this. [future - present]

If tomorrow’s experiment didn’t work, the Russians’ original prediction would have been wholly accurate. [future - past]

If you loved me you would come with me. [present - future]

If she were here she would be in her office. [present - present]

If I were ill I would have stayed at home. [present - past]

If I had won the lottery I would buy a sports car. [past - future]

If I had followed your advice, I would be rich now. [past - present]

If Kim hadn’t told her, I would have done so. [past - past]

  • Thank you, and it’s time I picked up CaGEL! Jun 2, 2020 at 17:25

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