To make good use of English, it is indeed necessary to know the different cases that can occur in grammar. Conditional forms are used to express real or unreal situations that may or may not occur with some condition involved. To understand them well and put them into practice, take the following steps into account.
Part 1 of 4: Distinguish Between Conditional and Resulting Sentence
Step 1. Use a conditional sentence
In English, conditional forms are made up of two sentences. The first ones are the conditional sentences known as “conditional clause” or “if clause”, these designate the conditions that need to be fulfilled to obtain a result.
- To form a conditional clause you need a structure similar to that of the simple sentence: If + Subject + Conjugated verb + Complement (optional): If I practice this week. (If I practice this week)
- If the conditional clause is before the resulting sentence, you need to put a comma: If you read the book, you will complete your homework. (If you read the book, you will complete your tasks)
Step 2. Complement the conditional sentence with a resulting sentence
This is the second part of your compound sentence. Known as "main clause" or "result clause", these sentences express a complete idea and usually come before or after the "conditional clause".
- Take advantage of the simple form of sentence: Subject + Conjugated Verb + Complement: I win the game. (I win the game)
- If the main clause is at the top, there is no need to put a comma in it: I will improve my health If I eat more fruits. (My health will improve if I eat more fruits).
Part 2 of 4: Using Conditional Forms in Real Events
Step 1. Use the conditional forms in real events with results in the present
Also known as type 0 conditional compound sentence, it means that the verbs in the conditional sentence and the resulting sentence will always be in the present simple. Also, the conditional sentence represents a truth and the resulting one is a fact.
- Use this structure for the resulting sentence: Subject + Verb in present simple + Complement.
- Use the following structure in the conditional sentence: If + Subject + Verb in present simple + Complement.
- if it rains, I get wet. (If it rains I get wet).
- To ask questions, follow the conventional structure of do or does: Does the ice melt if it gets warm? (Does ice cream melt if it gets hot?)
Step 2. Use the conditional forms in real events and future results:
They are the so-called type 1 sentences, therefore, the verb located in the conditional sentence is in the present tense. To construct the resulting sentence we use the future structure with will or be going to.
- Use this structure in the conditional sentence: If + Subject + Verb in present simple + Complement.
- Apply this structure in the resulting sentence: Subject + Will or Be going to + Verb + Complement.
- If she is sick, you will take care of her. (If she is sick, you will take care of her).
- If we are willing to change, we are going to have a better planet. (If you are willing to change, we will have a better planet).
- To ask questions, use the classic form: Will you take a better decision if I convince you? (Will you make a better decision if I convince you?)
Part 3 of 4: Using Conditional Forms in Unreal Events
Step 1. Use would to express unreal events
These are type 2 sentences and they are used to describe events with little probability of happening in the present or future, they are considered wishes only. First you need to keep in mind that now you have to write the conditional sentence in the past simple and, on the other hand, the resulting sentence using the verb in the infinitive.
- Use this past simple structure in your conditional sentence: If + Subject + Verb in past simple + Complement.
- Use this structure in your resulting sentence: Subject + Would + Infinitive Verb + Complement.
- For example: If I could eat the package, I would eat it too. (If I could eat the package, I would eat it too.)
- To ask questions, you can use the structure of: Would you go with me to the movies if you weren’t busy? (Would you go to the movies with me if you weren't busy?)
Step 2. Use conditional forms on hypothetical events in the past
This case is type 3 and it is used to express things that did not happen and it is impossible for them to happen now because they refer to some situation from the past. To apply it you need to formulate the conditional sentence with the verb in the past perfect and the resulting sentence with "would have" and the past participle of the verb.
- Guide yourself with this structure in your conditional sentence: If + Subject + verb in past perfect + Complement.
- Apply the following structure in your resulting sentence: Subject + Would have + Verb in past participle + Complement.
- For example: She wouldn’t have had that illness if she had followed the doctor’s orders. (She would not have had this disease if she had followed the doctor's orders).
- To ask questions, remember to follow: Would you have chosen the same career if you had known the future? (Would you have chosen the same career if you had known the future?)
Part 4 of 4: Swap a few words to enrich vocabulary and sentences
Step 1. Replace the If if you want to:
The conditional sentence can also start with other words such as: When, Whenever, unless, as long as, only if, even if, etc. These are useful for describing a general truth, habit, prediction, commitment, promise, warning, or advice.
- Example 1: Only if I don't go to the school, my mother is disappointed. (Only if I don't go to school my mother is disappointed).
- Example 2: As long as everybody do their part, we are going to have a good environment. (As long as everyone does their part, we will have a good environment.)
- Example 3: Even If you lost your job, I will help you. (Even if you've lost your job, I'll help you.)
Step 2. Try other ways to express an unreal event using Wish:
You can express wishes in real situations, for this case use almost the same structure of the past simple, but with wish. You can also express Wishes about the past, in this case use the structure of the past perfect.
- 'Example 1:' I wish she had a boyfriend. (She wishes she had a boyfriend).
- He wishes his family were here. (She wishes her family were here).
- Martina wishes he would never have traveled so far. (Martina wishes he had never traveled that far).
Step 3. Use can, may, and might in the conditional forms as well
To use them, you only need to replace will or be going to in the sentence of type 1, replace would in the sentence of type 2 or if this is the case, also replace would in the sentence of type 3 and put can, may or might instead.
- Example 1: If I hear the alarm, I can wake up early. (If I hear the alarm, I can wake up earlier),
- Example 2: If she knew me, she might be my friend. (If she had known me, maybe she would be my friend.)
- If I had gotten tired, I may have rested a little. (If I had gotten tired, maybe I would have rested a bit.)
- Practice constantly. This is a very important part for the correct assimilation of English grammar. You can find many exercises online for these conditional forms.
- Make sure you keep in mind what you want to make known in your sentence before formulating it, thanks to this it will be easier for you to identify which of the conditional forms it belongs to.
- Never put will or would in the conditional sentence, this is a frequent mistake, but nothing happens, always remember that these go only in the resulting sentences.
- Never use when instead of if in conditional forms referring to real events.
- Don't put will or would twice in the same sentence.