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Conditional Sentences - Alternate Forms

First Conditional

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Most students learn the standard construction forms for the conditional forms in English. There are, however, a number of alternate forms used with the conditional. The first page provides a look at alternate forms for the first conditional, while the second page provides alternate forms for the second and third conditionals.

To improve your understanding of conditionals, this conditional forms page reviews each of the four forms in detail. To practice conditional form structure, this real and unreal conditional form worksheet provides a quick review and practice exercises, the past conditional worksheet focuses on using the form in the past. Teachers can use this guide on how to teach conditionals, as well as this conditional forms lesson plan to introduce and practice the first and second conditional forms in class.

First Conditional Alternate Forms

Going to

'Going to' is often used to replace 'will' in the first conditional. This is often done to emphasize a certain result.

Example

If you apply to that school with your excellent marks, you're going to be accepted!

'Going to' is also used to mean 'intend to' after 'if'.

Example

If you're going to skip school, you certainly won't pass your exams.

Present Perfect

With the first conditional, the present perfect is used to focus on the completion of an action.

Example

We'll meet for lunch if you've finished your work.

Should

'Should' implies that something is possible, but improbable.

Example

If he should arrive, we'll invite him along to dinner.

This is stronger than in the second conditional in which an unreal or imaginary situation is presented. Compare:

If he studied, he'd pass the exam.

In this example, I am sure that the student will NOT pass the exam, the second conditional expresses an IMAGINARY situation.

If he should study, he'll pass the exam.

In this case, I think that the student will probably not study, but if he does, he'll pass the exam.

Happen to / Should happen to

These two forms emphasize the chance nature of the conditional. In this way, the condition, while still true, is a less likely to occur.

Examples

If they happen to come to town, we'll have dinner.
If he should happen to get stuck in that town, he'll be able to find a hotel room for the night.

Modals in Result Clause

Modals can be used in the result clause to indicate future possibilities, permission and advice.

Examples

If you finish your homework, you can go out and play.
You should see a doctor if you continue to feel bad.
If you arrive early, you might give Tom a call.

If and Adjectives

With the verb 'to be' plus and adjective, the subject and verb of the 'if' clause can be omitted. The result clause follows in the imperative form.

Example

If interested, apply for the position.

Provided (that), As long as

'Provided (that)' and 'as long as' are used to instead of 'if' to show specific conditions that must be met in order for something to happen.

Example

Provided he finishes his studies, he'll find an excellent job.
As long as she pays off the loan, the house will be hers at the end of next year.

Second Conditional Alternate Forms

Could in Result Clause

Modals can be used in the result clause to indicate hypothetical possibilities.

Examples

If you were more serious about your work, you could find a new job.

Were to

If followed by subject + 'were to' emphasizes the hypothetical character of the statement.

Example

If I were to buy a new car, what would you say?

If it were not for

'If it were not for' emphasizes that one event depends on another for completion. This form is often used to show the negative results without a certain person or thing.

Example

If it weren't for his dedication, this company wouldn't exist!

Supposing

'Supposing' is used in place of 'if' to emphasize the imaginary. It is more commonly used in everyday speech.

Example

Supposing he came to visit you, what would you do?

Third Conditional Alternate Forms

Modals in Result Clause

Modals can be used in the result clause to indicate past hypothetical possibilities, permission and advice.

Examples

If he had known, he could have given you a hand.
You might have finished the assignment on time, if you had planned more carefully.
If you hadn't prepared, you should have told the professor.

But for

'But for' replaces 'if not' and is followed by a noun. It is usually used in formal speech.

Example

But for our savings, we wouldn't have been able to make the payments.

If it hadn't been for

'If it hadn't been for' emphasizes that one event depended on another for completion. This form is often used to show what the negative results would have been without a certain person or thing.

Example

If it hadn't been for Jack, we would have failed.

Mixed Conditional

A result clause can use the conditional to express a present hypothetical result based on a past action.

Example

If she hadn't helped me, I wouldn't work here now.

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