'Unless' is commonly used by English language speakers. In this lesson, we will learn all about this word and when and how to use it.

How to Use "Unless" in English?

'Unless' is used when we want to make an exception. It is only used as a conjunction. In this lesson, we will discuss how to learn and use it.

Functions of 'Unless'

'Unless' as a Conjunction

'Unless mainly functions as a conjunction in sentences. Let us see what kind of a conjunction it is:


'Unless' as a Subordinating Conjunction

'Unless' is a subordinating conjunction and we connect two clauses with it, one of which is dependent and needs the main clause to be complete. It is used when we want to show a conditional situation. Look:

He can't go unless you go with him.

Unless someone cancels their reservation, we're totally full.

Position in a Sentence

Since 'unless' is a subordinate conjunction, we can put it at the beginning of the subordinate clause or between the two clauses. Look below:

Unless he's in charge, he does not have the right to speak.

As you can see, 'unless' is at the beginning of the subordinate clause here.

I will not leave unless you want me to.

Here, 'unless' is between the two clauses.


Please note that whenever we use 'unless' at the beginning of a sentence, we must always put a comma between the two clauses. Take a look:

Unless she is dead, I can never walk freely on this earth.

Unless Anna is treated badly, she will not leave your side.

'Unless' and Verb Tenses

It is important to know that we can use 'unless' with simple present, simple past, and perfect tenses. Let us examine the following examples carefully:

She cannot leave you unless you ask her to.

Here, both clauses are in the simple present tense.

The burglars threatened to leave me in the middle of nowhere unless I told them where they could find the girl.

Here, simple past has been used in both clauses.

Percy wouldn't have dared to do that unless some supernatural force had assisted him.

Here, the past perfect has been used.


I will not leave you unless you, yourself, tell me to.

Here, 'will' has been used before 'unless' which is completely correct.

It is important to know that we do not use 'will' in the clause after 'unless'. Compare the examples below:

Unless you will tell me, I can't talk to you.


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