Expressing Condition

There are many ways to express conditions in every language. Here in this lesson, we are going to learn how to talk about it in English.

Expressing Condition in the English Grammar

How to Express Condition in English

Expressing condition allows us to talk about hypothetical or possible situations, and to express the likelihood or possibility of something happening. By using conditional language, we can express a hypothetical situation, a possibility, a condition, a doubt, a warning or potential consequence.
A condition and a consequence are necessary elements of a conditional sentence.

To express condition in English, we can use:

Conditional Mood

Only use of subordinating conjunctions and inverted forms leads to formation of conditional mood.

Subordinating Conjunctions for Expressing Condition

Subordinating conjunctions are often used to introduce the dependent clause in a conditional sentence and mark the condition that must be met for the main clause to occur. In such sentences, the condition and result can switch places in the sentence, depending on the emphasis or importance of each element, without changing the meaning of the sentence. Here are some of the most commonly used subordinating conjunctions to express condition:

If

This is the most common conjunction used to express condition. It is used to introduce a hypothetical situation or a condition that must be met before something else can happen. For example:

If it rains, we'll stay inside.

Unless

This conjunction is used to express a negative condition. It means that something will happen only if a particular condition is not met. For example:

I won't come unless you apologize.

Provided (that)

This conjunction is used to express a condition that must be met in order for something to happen. For example:

I'll come provided that you don't invite him.

Suppose (that)

This conjunction is used to introduce a hypothetical scenario. For example:

Suppose that it rains tomorrow, we will cancel the outdoor event.

So Long As and As Long As

Although "as long as" and "so long as" are similar in meaning and can sometimes be used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the two.
"As long as" is used to express a condition that must be met for something else to happen, whereas "so long as" is used to express a condition that must be maintained simultaneously with an event to make it happen. Pay attention to the examples:

You can stay so long as you are quiet.

You can borrow my bike as long as you promise to return it by tomorrow afternoon.

Positive Type
If Single occurrence
Unless Single occurrence
Provided (that) Single occurrence
Suppose (that) Single occurrence
In Case Of Single occurrence
So Long As Simultaneous
As Long As Single occurrence

Conjunctive Adverbs for Expressing Condition

Conjunctive adverbs can be used to express different types of conditions in English, such as hypothetical situations, negative conditions, and conditions that must be met for something to happen. They are different from subordinating conjunctions in that they do not mark the condition and thus the order of clauses in sentences with conjunctive adverbs can not be altered. A common conjunctive adverb used to express condition in English is 'otherwise'.

Otherwise

Otherwise is used to indicate what will happen if a certain condition is not met, or to introduce an alternative option if the first option is not possible or desirable. It usually implies that there is a negative consequence or an alternative option that will occur if the initial condition is not met. For Example:

You need to finish your homework by 9 pm. Otherwise, you won't be able to go to the party.

Prepositions for Expressing Condition

Some prepositions can be used in conjunction with other words to indicate a conditional relationship.

In Case Of

This preposition is used to express a precautionary condition. For example:

In case of a power outage, make sure to have a flashlight and extra batteries on hand.

In the event of

"In the event of" is a preposition used to indicate what will happen if a certain event occurs. Here is an example:

In the event of a fire, please exit the building immediately.

But for

"But for" is a preposition used to indicate that a certain event or condition is necessary for a particular outcome to occur. For example:

But for her help, I would not have been able to finish the project on time.

If Not For

"If not for" is often used to express a hypothetical situation in which a particular condition did not or would not exist, and the outcome of that situation would be different. Pay attention to the example:

If not for the traffic, we would have arrived at the airport on time.

Inversion

We can form conditional sentences without 'if' by using an inverted past subjunctive clause which marks the condition, followed by the main clause which expresses the consequence. This makes the sentence more formal. Furthermore, the order of clauses can be changed in these inverted sentences, without changing the meaning. Pay attention to the examples:

Had I studied harder, I could have passed the exam.

Or 'I could have passed the exam had I studied harder.'

Should you see him, tell him I said hello.

'should' is used to introduce a hypothetical situation.

Were I you, I would take the job offer.

Here, "were" is used to introduce a hypothetical situation that is contrary to reality.

Tip!

To create the negative form of an inverted sentence, "not" is added after the subject of the sentence. In such sentences, contracted forms are not allowed.

Should you not arrive on time, we will begin the meeting without you.

not 'shouldn't you arrive on time'

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