Conditionals and If Clauses Lesson

Conditionals and If Clauses

We all think about what we are going to do in the future, whether it is figuring out our weekend or deciding what to make for dinner. But things don’t always go as planned. When we construct a sentence with conditionals and if clauses, we have an understanding that other things may affect the course of events in our day, we make conditional plans:

            > If it rains tomorrow, I’ll stay home.

            > If I hadn’t stayed up so late last night I wouldn’t be so tired.


What is a Conditional?

The above sentences are examples of conditionals. Conditionals are extremely important in the English language because they help us express things that may happen in the present and future. Conditionals serve many purposes and take several different forms. They can be used to give advice, express regret and discuss facts, among other things.

Grammatically, the forms of all conditionals look different; but they always have two clauses in common. A clause is a piece of a sentence that contains a subject and verb. In conditional sentences, there are two clauses: the If Clause and the Main Clause (sometimes called the Result Clause).

Take a look at this example:  

            > If I were you, I would study harder for my test.

The first half of the sentence (before the comma) is the If clause. The last part of the sentence (after the comma) is the Main clause.

If Clause = the condition (what is going to happen)

Main Clause = the results of these conditions (what will happen if the condition comes true)


Kaplan students learning about conditionals and if statements

Let’s Talk More About Conditionals

Present Real Conditional

We use this conditional to talk about habits (things that happen again and again) and facts (things that are true).

            > If you heat water, it boils.

Future Real Conditional

This is used to talk about what will or won’t happen in the present and future. These events are possible, which is why we call it a real conditional.

            > If I study, I’ll pass my test.

Present + Future Unreal Conditional

This conditional is used to talk about present and future events that that are unlikely or unreal, plus their results.

            > If I were rich, I would live in a castle.

This is also known as the advice conditional because it’s the one we use to give advice, ideas and suggestions:

            >  If I were you, I would travel to Spain.

Past Unreal Conditional

The past unreal conditional is used to talk about past events and their results. It mainly used to discuss past events we regret and wish we could change.

             > If I had gone to medical school, I would have become a doctor.



One last question you may have is when to use each modal: would, might or could? In general, we follow these rules/patterns:

Would = certain

Might= less certain

Could= ability


Do you feel confident about your comprehension of conditionals? Show us some of your new English grammar skills by posting some examples in the comment section. Similarly, if you have any questions, post them below and we will be happy to help you out.

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