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 called conditional clauses) are used to express that the action in the main clause (the clause without if) can only take place if a certain condition (in the clause with if) is fulfilled.

Types of If-clauses

There are three types of if-clauses:

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

If-clauses Type 1

Type 1 if-clause is used to talk about the result of an imagined future situation when we believe the imagined situation is very likely.

using an if clause in a sentence

If-clauses Type 1: Form

conditional clause (If + present simple) + main clause (modals with future meaning)

If I get a job in Tokyo, I'll 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.


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-clauses Type 2

We use the Type 2 If-clauses to talk about the possible result of an imagined situation in the present or future.

If-clauses Type 2: Form

conditional clause (if + past simple) + main clause (modal verb with future-in-the-past meaning)

If Jim lent us little money, we could buy the house.

If we ruined the evidence , they wouldn't find the murderer.

Would you be still mad if I invited Mike?


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

If you decided to take the trip, you would have to buy the tickets by 31 March. (Not 'If you would decide to take the trip …')

If-clauses Type 3

We use the third conditional when we imagine a different past, where something did or did not happen, and we imagine a different result:

If-clauses Type 3: Form

conditional clause (if + past perfect) + main clause (modal verb with future-in-the-past meaning)

If I had studied more, I would have passed the test. (I didn't study well and I didn't pass.)

It would have been easier if George had told her about his wife in the first place. (George didn't tell about his wife, so the situation was difficult.)

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


Would have + -ed 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)


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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