“IF” Clause Conditionals

The If Clause Conditionals

‘If’ Clause Conditionals

This Sub-topic falls under Adverb Clauses of Condition in the Kinds of Subordinate Clauses in the main topic SENTENCE.

As the name suggests, this clause is used to show the condition to be fulfilled to get the desired result mentioned in the main clause, or what result we can get when the stated condition in the subordinate clause is fulfilled!

The common conjunctions of the Adverb Clause of Condition are: if, unless, provided (that), on condition that, etc.

However, the conjunction ‘if’ is given a separate place because in each of the FIVE types of ‘if’ clause conditionals, the verb pattern is fixed. That is to say, the main verb in the main clause and the main verb in the subordinate clause are paired and fixed in each type, and each type is used to express a condition that has a particular purpose.

Type 1

[A]

The pattern is: ‘Simple Present Tense’ in the main verb of the subordinate clause and ‘Simple Future Tense’ in the main verb of the main clause.

e.g: If you work hard, you will get a promotion.

If you work hard = subordinate clause/‘if’ clause

‘work’ main verb – ‘simple present tense’

you will get a promotion = main clause

‘will get’ main verb – ‘simple future tense’

This type is used when the chances of getting the desired result in the main clause are more – 80% of success rate. Therefore, in the above example, ‘your chances of getting a promotion’ are very high when you fulfill the condition – “working hard”.

[B]

The pattern is: ‘Simple Present Tense’ in the main verb of the main clause and ‘Simple Present Tense’ in the main verb of the subordinate clause – ‘if’ clause.

e.g.

If you see the plumber, ask him to fix the dripping tap in the kitchen.

If you see the plumber = subordinate clause/’if’ clause

‘see’ = main verb – simple present tense – subordinate clause

ask him to fix the dripping tap in the kitchen

‘ask’ = main verb – simple present tense – main clause

This type is used when the expression is an order, command, or request (imperative sentence — note also that the subject part of the main clause ‘you’ is omitted because it is almost an order).

Type 2

The pattern is: ‘Simple Past Tense’ in the main verb of the ‘if’ Clause and the Conditional Tense in the main verb of the main clause.

(conditional tense = would/should/could/might + the ‘infinitive without to’ form of the main verb)

e.g. If you worked hard, you would get a promotion.

If you worked hard = subordinate clause / ‘if’ clause

worked = main verb — simple past tense — ‘if’ clause

you would get a promotion = main clause

would get‘ = main verb — conditional tense with ‘would’ — main clause

This type is used when the chances of getting the desired result in the main clause are far fewer – 20% of success rate. Therefore, in the above example, ‘your chances of getting a promotion’ are very few even when the condition of ‘working hard’ is fulfilled may be because your approach or attitude is not right.

Though the Tense of the verb is PAST, the expression is used for the PRESENT TIME.

This is one of the complications we are faced with in ‘if’ clause conditionals!

With the ‘Direct/Reported Speech’ construction, however, this pattern may represent PAST time:

e.g.

She said to me, “If you work hard, you will get a promotion.” Direct

She told me that if I worked hard, I would get a promotion. Indirect

Type 3

The pattern is: the verb form “were” in the ‘if’ clause, irrespective of the number and person of the subject of the subordinate clause, and the ‘improbable tense’ in the main verb of the main clause.

(improbable = only ‘would’ + the ‘infinitive without to’ form of the main verb)

e.g.

He would marry her if she were a queen.

He would marry — main clause

would marry = main verb — conditional tense with ‘would’

if she were a queen — subordinate clause/if clause

were = main verb — {with the subject ‘she’}

*Though the tense of the main verbs in both these clauses is in PAST TENSE, this expression is also used for the PRESENT TIME.

**Though the past tense of ‘be’ form verb used with 3rd person singular pronoun (he, she, it, my friend, your brother, our new house, etc) is “was”, in this type ‘were’ is used to show the improbability!

e.g. She is a girl. Present Tense — She was a girl. PAST TENSE

[normal tense pattern]

He would marry her, if she were a queen.

[‘if’ clause improbable tense pattern]

This type is used to express an activity or existence that is IMPROBABLE, which means the activity or existence can never happen but we like to imagine the result if at all the condition is fulfilled.

In our example sentence, the subject of the ‘if’ clause “she” is not a queen and can never be a queen, but the speaker expresses the idea with this ‘improbable conditional’ so that the listener understands the impossibility of the action, i.e. ‘marrying her’!

There has been some confusion, rather contradiction, among the educated circles in the use of the regular form of the ‘be’ and the ‘improbable’ form “were” in ‘if’ clause conditionals.

There is, however, some difference in the usage between ‘was’ and ‘were’:

Compare:

If my father were here, he would help me out with this problem.

[the improbable ‘were’ in the ‘if’ clause]

This sentence is used to show that the speaker’s father is not here and there is no chance of his being here because he is dead; however, the speaker wishes to express his hope of getting some help which he probably is desperate to get and is not getting it from any one alive.

If my father was here, he would help me out with this problem.

[the regular ‘be’ form past tense ‘was’ in the ‘if’ clause]

This sentence is used to show that the speaker’s father is not here, but there is a chance, however low it may be, of his being here because he is probably somewhere far away and does not know that his son is in need of him. But the chances of his being here are very low, i.e. 10 or 20%. This is almost the same as type 2.

Type 4

The pattern is: ‘past perfect tense’ in the main verb of the ‘if’ clause and the ‘PAST IMPROBABLE TENSE’ in the main verb of the main clause.

(‘past improbable’ = would/could/should/might/must + have + the ‘past participle’ form of the main verb —– go – went – gone — going — ‘gone’ is the past participle form of the verb word “go” )

e.g.

If you had worked hard, you would have got a promotion.

If you had worked hard — subordinate clause/‘if’ clause

had worked’ — main verb — past perfect tense

would have got’ — PAST IMPROBABLE TENSE – main clause

Of the FIVE types of the ‘if’ clause conditional patterns, this type (4) is the only type used for the PAST TIME!

This type is used to show that an activity or existence did not happen, but we like to imagine the result if at all the condition in the subordinate clause was fulfilled.

In our example sentence, the person in the expression did not work hard, and consequently, did not get a promotion; however, the speaker of this sentence likes to imagine the result if ‘you’ really worked hard which may have resulted in “getting a promotion”. Unfortunately, neither action happened!

An important point to remember is that with type 3 and 4, the conjunction ‘if’ is often omitted and the word order of subject and verb is of the Interrogative Sentence — — verb comes first and the subject comes next —- in sentences where the speakers want to give more force (emphasis) to their expressions:

e.g. Were I the minister of finance, I would waive all the taxes.

[‘were I the…’ = if I were the …’    STRONG EMOTION]

Had you worked hard, you would have got a promotion.

[‘had you worked hard’ = if you had worked hard’    STRONG EMOTION]

Another equally important point to remember is that in type 3 and 4 the main verbs with negative in both the clauses give us positive result, and positive in both the clauses give us negative result.

This is one of several complications we are faced with in Conditional Clauses!

e.g.

If you had worked hard, you would have got a promotion.

‘had worked’ = positive;          ‘would have got’ = positive

The result is: you ‘did not work hard’ and so ‘you did not get’ a promotion.

If you had not worked hard, you would not have got a promotion.

‘had not worked’ = negative;      ‘would not have got’ = negative

The result is: you ‘worked hard’ and so ‘you got’ a promotion.

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Quite often we come across such sentences as the following ones:

1. You will pass the test if you worked hard.

[‘simple future’ in the main clause and ‘simple past’ in the ‘if’ clause]

2. If you will go there I will go there, too.

[‘simple future’ in the main clause and ‘simple future’ in the ‘if’ clause]

3. If we had consulted the map we would not be lost.

[‘improbable tense’ in the main clause and ‘past perfect’ in the ‘if’ clause]

which seem contrary to the fixed patterns we have discussed so far.

Not all grammarians accept these patterns, but we do see them quite often and the people who say or write these patterns may come up with some plausible explanation.

However, we, at this basic level, are advised to avoid such constructions!!

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