Conditional Sentences

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There are four types of conditional sentences:

  1. Zero Conditional Sentences

i) refer to general truths such as scientific or natural facts;

ii) in this type of condition sentences, the time is now or always and the situation is real or possible;

iii) if-clause (Simple present) + Main clause (Simple present);

iv) use a comma after the if-clause when the if-clause comes before the main clause;

v) in zero conditional sentences, if the word ‘if’ is replaced by ‘when’, the meaning usually remains the same: When you heat up milk, the water starts to evaporate.

If you turn it upside down, the water rushes out.

If you stay up late, you’ll feel tired next day.

If you will stay up late, you’ll feel tired next day.              (Don’t use future verb in the if-clause; also, when the sentence begins with when, both if-clause and main clause should be in simple present):

When you will heat up milk, the water will slowly evaporate.      

When you heat up milk, the water slowly evaporates.    

 

2. First Conditional Sentences

i) used to express situations in which a possible condition causes a possible result, though, not guaranteed;

ii) in this type of conditional sentences, the construction is based on ‘if this thing happens, that thing will happen’;

iii) the if-clause (Simple present) + Main clause (Simple future);

iv) use a comma after the if-clause when the if-clause precedes or succeeds the main clause.

If you start early, you’ll be home before dawn.

If anybody calls, tell them I’ll be back in two hours.

You’ll share my umbrella, if it rains.

If you carpool the children to school, you’ll save enough money.

Mother will be furious, if she finds out the truth about your grades.

If she doesn’t take the plunge, she’ll never marry to Bob.

 

Note that there are always some exceptions and special cases when we use conditional sentences.

We use the simple future in the If-clause when the action in the if-clause happens after the action in the main clause:

If you will send me the revised quotes, I’ll start working on this project immediately. (a request)

If it will make her happy, Bob will gift her with a car on her birthday.

 

 3. Second Conditional Sentences

i) refer to unreal conditionals; not likely to happen in the future, not based on fact; a hypothetical condition and its probable result;

ii) used to express situations in which a possible condition causes a possible result, though, not guaranteed;

iii) in this type of conditional sentences, the construction is based on ‘if this thing happened, that thing would happen.’ (but not sure if the thing will happen) or that thing would happen;

iv) the if-clause (Simple past or continuous) + Main clause (an auxiliary modal verb i.e. would, could, should, might denoting an unlikely or unrealistic outcome):

If she was here, she would accompany us to the movies.

If you were driving from New York to Boston, which way would you prefer to go?

If it rained, she wouldn’t be able to attend the meeting.

I’d drop the children to school, if I had my car.

You got yourself into a mess if you told a lie.

In the second conditional sentences, when we express the unlikelihood of the situation; unlikely to happen, we use a modal auxiliary verb in the main clause:

If I knew how to swim, I’d cross the English Channel.

If my grandmother was/ were still alive, she would have all her teeth intact.

If I spoke Arabic, the multi-millionaire sheikh would hire me.

If she inherited her late husband’s fortunes, she would do a lot of philanthropic works.

 

Now notice the following examples, the first one has an error in the if-clause, should be in the past.

If they have their own children, they would be comfortably off.                    

If they had their own children, they would be comfortably off.                      

 

4. Third Conditional Sentences

i) refer to an unreal past condition accompanied by its probable result in the past expressing that present situation would be different if something different had happened in the past;

ii) in third conditional sentences, the if-clause is in past perfect (had + past participle) + Main clause (the modal auxiliary would, could, should, etc. + have + past participle); they express the theoretical situation that could have happened:

If doctor had operated on him in time, his life would have been saved.

If she had told him she didn’t like him, he would have gone for Jane because she values him as a person.

If the UN had not rushed medical aid and food to the earthquake sites, there would have been far too many deaths.

If you had told me you needed to stay at my apartment, I would have left the keys with the neighbour.

If he had behaved himself in the prison, he could have been let out on probation.

If Jack had done the assignments, he could have gone out to play.

Notice that in all these sentences, the subject of the statements was capable of doing something, but they did not. All these situations are likely, but did not happen.

Now, note the following common errors in the third conditional sentences:

If Barbara would have lent me money, I would have finally succeeded in the property world.        

If Barbara had lent me money, I would have finally succeeded in the property world.                     

(In third conditional sentences, do not use a modal auxiliary verb in the if-clause).

 

Inversion in Conditional Sentences

 

In formal or literary English, we also inverse the if-clause:

Had the doctor not done caesarean section, the newborn would have died. (= If the doctor had not done caesarean section….)

It would be humiliating, were he to be told he was a complete idiot.  (= If he were to be told he was a complete idiot….; the likely or unlikely result is particularly awful or unthinkable; used to express hypothetical scenarios in the present, future, and past).

Should you need extra beddings, just call the manager. (= If you should need extra beddings….)

When one situation is dependent on another situation or on a person, we use ‘if it was/ were not for.’

If it wasn’t/ weren’t for Mr. Wilson, I wouldn’t be selected for the national team.

Were it not for Mr. Wilson, I wouldn’t be selected for the national team.  (formal, literary)

When we talk about the past, we use ‘if it had not been for’ + noun:

If it hadn’t been for Mr. Wilson, I wouldn’t have been selected for the national team.

Had it not been for Mr. Wilson, I wouldn’t have been selected for the national team. (formal, literary)

In the street vs. On the street vs. At the street

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Both ‘in the street’ and ‘on the street’ are correct, according to the contexts. However, ‘at the street’ has somewhat different story.

I am in the street = Refers to the person being in an enclosed space surrounded by buildings, shops; in the street (in the middle of the traffic or where the traffic goes); more common in UK English;

That old woman is recovering at home after plunging into the ground after a manhole in the street collapsed. (used for a position)

Today I met Nancy in the street.

The woman in the street gave me a dirty look.

When I looked out of my window at dawn, there were few people in the street. (you are away from the street)

His pocket was picked in the street.

On my way to work, there was garbage piling up in the streets.

If the authorities don’t take any precautionary measures, there will be a bloodbath in the streets.

Now it is common sight to see young girls drunk in the streets in this city.

I am on the street = Refers to the person being located on a surface; more common in US English but in the street is also used;

Bob was riding his bicycle on/in the street. (also used for an activity)

She lives on Houston Street. (without precision)   

Mr. Wilson has an office on 1343 E. 60 Street.

Jill parked his car on the side of the street.

There are far too many street vendors in this time of the year, selling fruit and vegetables on the Blacksmith Street.

Today I met Nancy on the street that turns to North from Madison Square. (refers to a specific street)

I wanted to ask for directions but there was no one else on/in the street.

Also:

They rushed out onto the streets and told the big news to anyone that passed by.

I am at the street = Refers to the person being located at a specific point or location showing an exact position; used to say that you’ve arrived at the street;

She lives at 4580, Houston Street in New York.  (address with precision)

Pamela’s office is at 32 Canal Street in New York.

Any of these/them is or are

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Any of = Used before a plural noun phrase beginning with the, these, those, or a possessive to express an individual thing or person belonging to a particular group. Any of + the pronouns (this, that, these, those, it, us, you, or them) + countable noun takes either a singular or plural form of the verb:

The authorities don’t know if any of those prisoners have tried to sneak out during the night.        

We are still not sure whether any of these plans is really going to work.                                       

Be Careful! Do not use any without of before these pronouns:

Has any these commercials with few viewers stayed on the air for more than a fortnight?            

Has any of these commercials with few viewers stayed on the air for more than a fortnight?        

 

We use either a plural or singular form of a verb with any of and the pronouns these, those, you, them, and us. However, the singular form is more formal:

It doesn’t seem that any of her movies are ready for Christmas release.     (informal)

I don’t think any of them wants to have a brush with the law?                       (formal)

Have any of them been arrested after neighbours complained about late night parties.

Are any of these villas for sale?

Have any of these candidates been regarded as potential candidate?

Do any of these parties claim success in June’s elections?

Does any of them belong here? They all seem stranger.      (formal)

Do any of them belong here? They seem stranger.   (informal)

How many applicants have you had for the job? Do any of these candidates fill the bill?

I don’t think any of them want to work on Sundays.

She doesn’t like any of these frocks.

Do any of these students seem interested in what the teacher is saying?

If any of them are interested in the community service, let us know.

Seem to be happy or Seem happy

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Seem + to be + adjective or Seem + adjective

 

Seem = Gives a certain impression or have a certain outward aspect; the impression of being true, probable, or apparent; Seem is often followed by to be + an adjective:

He seems (to be) a perfect gentleman.

He has an authoritative manner and seems (to be) arrogant.

He seems to be in a bad mood at the moment about working on Sunday.

 

‘Seem(s)’ and ‘seem(s) to be’ are more often than not interchangeable and the difference is very subtle. However, it depends on whether we are expressing objective facts or subjective ideas:

The theatre seems to be jam-packed. (It is definitely full of audience).

According to locals, this banyan tree seems to be one hundred years old. (we believe the locals)

He seems drunk. (I guess so.)

He seems to be drunk. (His appearance tells us so)

The kids seem comfortable at the babysitter’s.                    

The kids seem to be comfortable at the babysitter’s.             

(both are correct with no difference in meaning)

However, see these examples:

It was Kim.         

It seemed Kim.    [the copular verbs like be (is, am, are, was, were), appear, seem, look, sound, smell, taste, feel, become and get can’t take a specifying PC]

It seemed to be Kim.  

With statements beginning with ‘there seem(s)’, ‘to be’ is used.

There seems to be some mix-up at the bank and we all received the wrong statements.

There seem to be some spelling errors writing the address of the recipient on the box and it was never delivered.

 

Usually there is no specific difference in meaning between ‘seem to be’ and ‘seem’; however, we prefer ‘seem to be’ when we mean something that looks to be definitely true (objective facts). On the contrary, we use ‘seem’ without ‘to be’ when the statement is based on personal feeling (subjective impression):

He seems to be unhappy with the results because he was confident he would win.          

It seems to be strange that despite his best efforts, he lost the election to the Tories.   

It seems strange that despite his best efforts, he lost the election to the Tories.           

 

We also use ‘seem(s) to be‘ when it’s followed by an -ing form:

He seems to be drowning as his motorboat capsizes.

 

With infinitives: They seem to have completed this task in time.

With like: This resort seems (like) a favourite tourist attraction for the rich and famous.

 

Notice that we don’t use ‘to be’ when ‘seem’ is followed by a clause with that, like, or as if/as though:

It seems (that) they will fly to Switzerland on honeymoon.

It seems like you have a bad influenza.

It seems as if this winter is never going to end.

It seems as if/as though he has no guts to say that to her face.

Seem vs. Appear; Seem to be happy vs. Appear to be happy

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Seem = Suggests how something looks or seems to look; used to describe a perceived condition; also suggests that something is true when we are not certain or when we want to be polite.

 

Appear = Used to talk about facts and events describing an observable condition; denotes that the opinion is based on a general visual impression. It also suggests that we do not quite believe that somebody or something really is as they seem:

His car seems/ appears to have stuck in a traffic jam.
It seems a best bet to take a taxi to the airport.
There seems to be some confusion over who is actually presiding over the function.
It seems crazy that we should do it all over again.   
It appears crazy that we should do it all over again.  

 

More examples:
It seems like she’ll never come around.
It seems as if they’ve parted their ways following their disagreement about the company’s title.
They seem to have lost their way; they’d better take help of Google maps?
The car seems to be in good condition, so worth its price.

The major difference between ‘seem’ and ‘appear’ is the ‘certainty-uncertainty’ effect. With ‘seem’, the observer exhibits the uncertainty while with ‘appear’, the uncertainty is exhibited by the attributes of the observed person or thing which can also be deceptive:

She appears very upset – she has got some bad news.
There appears to be some problem with the ATM; I can’t get the money out.
The minister doesn’t appear to know about the number of women in the Civil Service.
Things did not go as they appeared – everything fell flat.

 

More examples:
He didn’t appear so smart but he fixed the leaking tap in no time.
I didn’t want to appear rude – it’s just that there was no room in the car.
Is she as worried about Martha as she appears?
In the beginning, everything appeared normal.
The prisoners appeared (to be) rather contented with what they get.
She appears to have run off with his friend and can’t be traced now.

So, we can conclude that ‘appear’ is less common than ‘seem’ and ‘appear’ is a bit more formal too.

 

Appear + adjective + noun:

He appears quite a nervous candidate for the interview. (less often; in more formal situations)

 

It appears + as if/ as though/ that:

It appears as if Mr. Wilson hasn’t got his facts straight.
It appears as though the police haven’t verified the facts before arresting him.
It appears that she hasn’t been called for the audition.
He likes to appear as if he knows everything about the automobiles, but in reality he was only pretending.
It appears that none of the occupants of the car were injured.
It would appear (that) (= it seems that) no authorities have granted permission for the demonstration to take place.
She was extremely angry but now appears calm.
Though in the beginning he appeared (to be) rather stranger, later on we exchanged friendly greetings.

 

Appear + to infinitive:

He appears to hate me – even he’s causing others in the class to dislike me.
There appears to be some human error which caused the air crash.
It appears to me (that) he has no experience to manage large projects. (= I don’t think…)

 

It appears not/so:

“Are the kids busy with their homework?” “It appears not/so.”
“I think he has left the house by the back door.” “So it appears.”

 

‘Try to appear’ or ‘try to seem’:

Jack tried to appear calm when he was interrogated by the officers about who he was and what he had been doing.                        (Not tried to seem….)

 

 

Unreal Past

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Wish + (that) + past simple

We often use past tense to refer to an unreal situation. Though the tense is in the past, we, in fact, talk about some hypothetical situation – something that didn’t happen: a state or situation in the present that we regret but do not have any control:

I wish I brought the kids to the party.

He wishes he was muscular.

She wishes she was driving home with Jack.

I wish I was/ were

Past subjunctive = Used in the same form as the past simple tense; denotes present or future time:

I wish (that) she was/were a bit slimmer. (she is fat)

I wish you were not getting a cold. You’re all wet.

Past perfect subjunctive = Used in the same form as the past perfect tense; denotes past time:

If you had got up a bit earlier, you wouldn’t have missed the train. (you didn’t get up earlier)

We use the unreal tenses in second and third conditionals to express unreal or hypothetical situations and they are usually followed by wish, as if, as though, if only, it’s (high) time, would rather and would sooner, etc. to suggest that the condition they introduce is imaginary:

Supposing that you became the Prime Minister, Mr. Magento, what would you say?

If you got caught in the rain, I would feed the dog.

What if this opportunity didn’t turn up at just the right time for you?

If only I had my own car, I could drop the children off at the school.

What would you do if you inherited a fortune from your grandfather? (you probably won’t inherit a fortune)

When these expressions introduce hypothetical situations – something that didn’t happen – in the past, they are followed by the past perfect:

If only he’d listen to what she’s saying.

What if the child had touched that live electric wire?             (the child didn’t touch)

Supposing I had borrowed $20 from you. Would you have given it to me? (I didn’t borrow)

Wish + (that) + past perfect

When we talk about situations in the past that we feel sorry for or actions that we regret, we use the verb to wish followed by the past perfect:

I wish (that) the noise of the traffic hadn’t woken me (up) so early.

He wishes (that) he’d never got involved in the drug scene.

I wish I hadn’t answered back in the class.

He wishes he hadn’t taken a shortcut to town.

I wish I had spoken to Sarah before Freddie proposed to her.

Wish + (that) + would

When we talk about something we are not happy about and we are annoyed about something that is or is not happening, or we complain about something, we use to wish followed by would + infinitive:

I wish that elderly gentleman would stop coughing all the way through the concert! (He is coughing; it would be better if he didn’t.)

I wish they wouldn’t make a mess of their marriage. (they make a mess of their marriage; it would be better if they didn’t)

I wish he would stop grumbling about poor wages and long hours.

Wishing + (that) + would

We also use wish in the continuous form in informal situations:
He let his parents down by stealing. I’m just wishing he would go away!

Be careful:

We do not use wish instead of hope, when we want something to happen in the future or when we want something to have happened in the past:

I hope the blizzard doesn’t just affect the Midlands tomorrow. (Not I wish the blizzard……..)

I hope she didn’t miss a single episode of her favourite soap opera. (Not I wish she didn’t miss….)

I’d rather

We also use ‘I’d rather + past tense’, when we want a course of action to be done by someone else or prefer someone else to do that:

I’d rather you stayed a bit longer.

He’d rather you helped him clean out the stables.

I’d rather you didn’t tease him about his weight.

In the following sentences, we are putting emphasis to show our desire:

I’d rather you patched things up with her after your row. (instead of making war)

He’d rather you talked about your exams. (instead of going out)

He’d rather you helped him finish the household chores. (instead of whiling away)

As if vs. As though

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As if = Used to express that something is unlikely and should not be considered
As though = The same as ‘as if’

The difference between ‘as if’ and ‘as though’ is subtle and both of them can be used interchangeably. However, ‘as if’ is more common than ‘as though’:

She acts as if she were Cleopatra.

It was as if a great weight had been lifted off my back.

He looks as if he has had his lunch.

It looks as though I’ve been here before.

He is nowhere in sight.  It looks as though his car was stuck in traffic.

 

We can use was or were in informal English or conversation, however, in formal writing we use were:
She looked at me as if I were lying.                            (formal)

She looked at me as if I was/were lying.                    (spoken English)

 

If the situation is based on fact or reality, we use a real tense to show present time:

He looks as if he doesn’t like to talk about those years. (he doesn’t like to talk).

He looks as if he has the knowledge of her whereabouts. (he has the knowledge of her whereabouts)

 

We also use a real tense to refer past time, if the situation is true:
He seems as if he hasn’t taken a bath for days. (= he hasn’t taken a bath for days)

 

The Clauses beginning with as if/ as though define an unreal or improbable situation when
they are followed by an unreal tense (the past subjunctive or the past perfect subjunctive).

He looks as if he had no knowledge of her whereabouts. (he gives the impression of not
having any knowledge of her whereabouts, but (probably) has or we don’t know whether
he has or not)

He looks as if he didn’t like to talk about those days. (= he gives the impression that he (probably) doesn’t like to talk about those days or we don’t know whether he likes or not)

 

When the verb preceding as if/ as though is in the past and it (as if/ as though) is followed by past subjunctive, the structure will be:

He looked as if he didn’t like to talk about those days. (= whether he liked or didn’t like to talk can only be inferred from the context).

 

We use the past perfect subjunctive after as if/ as though to denote an unreal past situation.

He seems as if he hadn’t taken a bath for days. (= it seems that he hasn’t taken a bath for days, but he (probably) has or we are not sure of it)

 

If the verb before as if/ as though is in the past, the verb following the as if/ as though comes in the past perfect and the structure of the sentence will be:

He seemed as if he hadn’t taken a bath for days.

 

More examples:

The old woman says it looks as though her troubles were over.

In the beginning, it looked as though the project would not see the light of day.

Hello! Anybody home? It looks as though everyone else has left. (perhaps everyone has left)

Grandma looked as though she was annoyed by the sound of music.

Lately he’s been bossing us around as though he were the owner of the company.

He looks as though he was running late for the office. (perhaps he was late)

She looked as if she didn’t mind my asking such a personal question. (= whether she was
bothered or not by my asking the personal question can only be inferred from the context).

He looks as if he is an expert on the subject. (= he is an expert)

He looks as if he was/were an expert on the subject. (he gives the impression that he is an expert and we are not sure of it)

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