Contents of this Presentation
Key to Formulae and Terms used in presentation
Past Unreal Conditional
The slideshows in this series are not meant to be
comprehensive, but rather are starting points for further study
by Intermediate students of ESL (English as a Second Language).
Key to Formulae 1
Formulae are ways to structure a sentence. Below is an explanation of the
elements of the formulae used in this presentation.
The doer of an action. Usually appears at the beginning of a main clause. In the sentence “Bob is taller than Jill,”
Bob is the subject
The functional verb in the sentence (the one that gets conjugated).
The stem of a verb, or the infinitive without “to.” The root of “to go” is go.
Past Participle (PP)
The conjugation used for the perfect tenses. In the clause, “If I had gone…,” gone is a past participle.
Key to Formulae 2
The receiver of an action. Usually appears after the verb. In the sentence, “The dog catches the ball,” ball
is the object. When “object” appears in a formula, it is only for transitive verbs (verbs that take objects).
Otherwise something else might go in its place, like a prepositional phrase, or even nothing.
An adjective modifies a noun. In the sentence, “Bob throws the red ball,” red is an adjective.
Any collection of words that contains a subject and a verb. There are main clauses that stand on their own
and dependent clauses which need a main clause to have meaning.
The Real Conditional
True in the present/future
The present real conditional is used when talking about what you might do in real life situations. It can
I sometimes go to the park.
If I go to the park today, I will play Frisbee with my dog.
I might go to Madrid next weekend.
If I go to Madrid I can see a bullfight.
If+subject+verb (present)+object, subject+will/can+verb (root) +object.
The Unreal Conditional 1
Untrue in the present/future
The present unreal conditional is used to express a present or future condition. It tells us how things would be
or what would happen if the situation were different:
The truth: I don’t have a car. I don’t visit you often.
The condition: If I had a car I would visit you often.
If+subject+verb (past)+object, subject+would/could+verb (root) +object.
The Unreal Conditional 2
The unreal conditional is made up of an “IF”(If I had, If I could…) clause and a main “WOULD/COULD” (I would, I
could…) clause. You can order the clauses as you like.
You work so hard. You’re tired all the time.
If you didn’t work so hard, you wouldn’t be tired all the time.
You wouldn’t be tired all the time if you didn’t work so hard
You don’t have money. You can’t buy a new car.
If you had money, you could buy a new car.
You can’t speak English. You can’t go to the conference
If you could speak English, you could go to the congress
The Unreal Conditional 3
The form of the verb in the if-clause is the same as the past tense form of the verb:
What time would we get to work if we took the subway?
Why wouldn’t your friend complain if you never called her?
What would you buy if you had a million dollars?
There is one exception, though: the verb to be takes were for all persons:
I am – If I were:
If I were you, I’d be more careful
He is – If he were:
If he were rich, he’d never work.
You are – If you were:
If you weren’t my friend, I’d never see you.
The Past Unreal Conditional 1
Untrue in the past
The past unreal conditional is used to express a regret or the avoidance of a regret about something in the past.
It is about what you would have done if the situation were different.
The truth: I didn’t go to the store yesterday. I missed a big sale.
The conditional: If I had gone to the store yesterday I wouldn’t have missed the big sale.
If + subject + had + past participle… Subject + would + have + past participle…
The Past Unreal Conditional 2
The past unreal conditional consists of two clauses, an if clause and a would clause.
The if clause refers to an unreal past event or condition
If I had arrived on time... (I didn't)
If it hadn't rained yesterday... (it did)
The would clause describes the consequence:
...I wouldn't have missed the train.
...we would have gone to the beach.
It wasn't warm yesterday. We didn't go to the beach.
If it had been warm yesterday, we would have gone to the beach.
The Past Unreal Conditional 3
An unreal past condition may have a consequence in either the present or the past.
If you had listened to my advice, you wouldn't be in trouble now. (now)
If I had eaten more eggs when I was younger, I would probably like them now.
If it had rained an hour ago, the streets would be wet. (now)
Formula: In this case the formula changes for the would clause:
If + subject + had + past participle…, subject + would + root verb…
With were, had and should, sometimes the “if” in a conditional can be omitted:
Were I you, I wouldn’t do that
Had I known, I would have told you
Should anyone call, please take a message