As you learned briefly before, conditional statements are statements in which something is likely to happen or not, upon fulfilling certain conditions. There are different kinds of conditional statements.
Conditional statements that:
- have a reasonable degree of being fulfilled
- have a remote possibility of happening
- can’t happen at all
- If I’m invited to the party, I’ll go.
- I’ll go to the party if I’m invited.
In the above examples, the verb “invite” is acting as an adjective (invited), but the verb “to be” is in the simple present in the “if clause”. The verb in the dependent clause is in the future tense with “will” because the speaker promises to carry out an action if the condition or conditions are met.
- I usually watch TV if I have time.
- If I have time, I usually watch TV.
When using an adverb of frequency as in the above examples, both the “if clause” and the “dependent clause” use the simple present. In the above examples, both clauses are in the negative form and both conditions still need to be fulfilled to complete the action. In all of the above examples, the conditions have a reasonable possibility of being fulfilled.
- If the weather doesn’t get better, we won’t go the beach.
- We won’t go the beach if the weather doesn’t get better.
- If I won the lottery, I would buy a brand new car.
- I would buy a brand new card if I won the lottery.
In the above examples, the speaker is expressing a wish or an idea that they would like to come true. In this case, we use the simple past tense in the “if clause” and “would” or “could” in the statement. There is a remote possibility for this to happen.
- If I were an astronaut, I would go to the moon.
- I would go to the moon if I were an astronaut.
- If I were you, I wouldn’t smoke so much.
- I wouldn’t smoke so much if I were you.
- If she were faster, she could win the one hundred meter race in the Olympics.
- She could win the one hundred meter race in the Olympics if she were faster.
Notice that in the first four examples, all of the situations are impossible to happen because the speaker is not the person or never will be the person in the situation they are describing. In the last two examples, the condition is impossible to be met because the person being described doesn’t have the required conditions to complete the conditional statement. In the “if clause” we use the past tense of the verb to be, “were” for all for subjects. In informal speech sometimes we use “was” for the subjects, but this is uncommon.
Conditional Statements with the Past Tense
We can also use conditional statements to express regret about something that we did or did not do in the past. This is like trying to change the past(something that is not possible) but we can think and talk about it.
- If I had gone to the party, I would have had a wonderful time like you guys did.
- I would have had a wonderful time if I had gone to the party with you guys.
- She could have easily passed the exam if she had studied a little harder.
- If she had studied a little harder, she could have easily passed the exam.
- They would have lost the game if they hadn’t made those changes.
- If they hadn’t made those changes, they would have lost the game.
- If they had come early, they would not have missed the first part of the speech.
- They wouldn’t have missed the first part of the speech, if they had come early.
- If she hadn’t made a bad investment, she would still have her money.
- She would still had her money if she hadn’t made a bad investment.
- If I hadn’t passed the road test, I wouldn’t have gotten my driver’s license.
- I wouldn’t have gotten my driver’s license if hadn’t passed the road test.
- If he hadn’t been drinking and driving, he wouldn’t have been arrested for DWI.
- He wouldn’t have been arrested for DWI if he hadn’t been drinking.
- If it hadn’t been raining so hard, we could have gone to the stadium to watch the game.
- We could have gone to the stadium to watch the game if it hadn’t been raining so hard.
- If I had seen you, I would have said hello.
- I would have said hello if I had seen you.
- If I had had the time, I could have come to your party.
- I could have come to your party if I had had the time.