If-clauses

If-clauses are used to express that the action of the main clause. There are three types of if-clauses. In this lesson, we will discuss them.

"If-clauses" in the English Grammar

What Are If-clauses?

If-clauses, also known as conditional clauses, are a type of dependent clause that express a condition and its potential result. They are used to talk about hypothetical or imaginary situations and their possible outcomes.
If-clauses are formed by using the conjunction "if" followed by a clause that expresses a condition. The result of the condition is usually expressed in an independent clause that follows the if-clause.

Types of If-clauses

There are three types of if-clauses:

  • If-clause type I
  • If-clause type II
  • If-clause type II

If-clause Type I

A type I if-clause, also known as a real conditional, is used to talk about a possible future situation and its result when the speaker believes the situation is likely to occur.

using an if clause in a sentence

If-clauses Type I: Form

A real conditional sentence typically consists of a conditional clause, which is formed by using a present simple verb after 'If', and the main clause which includes future modals to express the result.

If I get a job in Tokyo, I will be able to afford the rent.

If he calls, I might ask him on a date.

If the bus doesn't come soon, I'll be late again.

Warning

Modal verbs are used in the main clause (also called the result clause), not in the clause which expresses the condition (also called the if-clause).

If a lawyer represents you in the court, we will win the trial. (Not 'If a lawyer will represent you in the court...')

If-clause Type II

Type II if-clauses, also known as unreal conditionals, are used to talk about hypothetical or imaginary situations in the present and their possible results.

If-clause Type II: Form

Type II 'if-clauses' consist of a conditional clause, which is formed by adding a past simple verb to if, and a main clause that includes a modal verb with a base form of verb.

If she were taller, she could reach the top shelf.

If I had a million dollars, I would buy a mansion.

Warning

'Would' is used in the main clause (also called the result clause), not in the conditional clause (also called the if-clause):

If you called me more often, I would feel happier. (Not 'If you would call me more often…')

If-clause Type III

The third conditional is used to talk about hypothetical or imaginary situations in the past, where something did or did not happen, and the hypothetical result of that situation.

If-clauses Type III: Form

Type III 'If-clauses' consist of a conditional clause, which consists of if together with a past perfect verb, and a main clause which includes a modal verb with future-in-the-past meaning to express the hypothetical result of an imaginary situation that did not occur in the past.

If I had studied more, I would have passed the test.

This sentence means I didn't study enough and I didn't pass the test.

It would have been easier if George had told her about his wife in the first place.

This sentence means George didn't tell about his wife, so the situation became difficult.

If they had left earlier, they would have gotten to the flight.

Warning

Would have + past perfect is used in the main clause or in the clause that expresses the result of the conditional clause:

If he had stayed in my house, he would have gone in the morning. (Not 'If he would have stayed)

Review

If clauses are used to express conditionals, as a result, there would be three types of if-clauses.

  • If-clauses type 1
  • If-clauses type 2
  • If-clauses type 3

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