Tenses in if-clauses

There are mainly three types of conditional sentences in English.

A conditional clause expresses a condition – something that must happen first so that something else can happen.

Conditional clauses are introduced by ‘if’. There are three types of them – first conditional, second conditional and third conditional.

First conditional

In the first conditional, we use a simple present tense in the if-clause and will + infinitive in the result clause.

Study the examples given below.

  • If you invite them, they will come.
  • If she recognizes you, she will raise an alarm.
  • If our team plays well, we will win the championship.

As you can see, the first conditional is used to talk about real and possible situations. They refer to the present or future. You are talking about something you or someone else should do now or in the future for something else to happen.

Second conditional

The second conditional is used to talk about imaginary situations.

In the second conditional, we use a simple past tense in the if-clause and would + infinitive (the first form of the verb) in the result clause.

Study the examples given below.

  • If you invited them, they would come. (You didn’t invite them and so they didn’t come.)
  • If she recognized you, she would raise an alarm.
  • If our team played well, we would win the championship.

Third conditional

The third conditional is also used to talk about hypothetical or imaginary situations. In the third conditional, we use a past perfect tense in the if-clause and would have + past participle (third form of the verb) in the result clause.

Study the examples given below.

  • If you had invited them, they would have come. (This is a purely hypothetical situation.)
  • If she had recognized you, she would have raised an alarm.
  • If our team had played well, we would have won the championship.

Make sure that you are using the right tenses in these clauses.

Related posts:

  1. Expressing condition using if-clauses
  2. Tenses in subordinate clauses
  3. If-clauses exercise
  4. If-clauses
  5. Common mistakes in the use of if-clauses
  6. How to use tenses correctly in your IELTS essays and letters?
  7. Common mistakes with simple present and present perfect tenses
  8. If clauses exercise 2
  9. Past tenses with present meaning
  10. Tenses worksheet

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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