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Common Errors in English 7.10.15
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    Common Errors in English 7.10.15

    WHEN / IF... (Conditionals)

    INTRO

    Conditionals are so useful when talking about a variety of situations involving actions and their results, but so tricky in their uses of tense and structure. Students often get tripped up trying to use them. Let's take a look at the 4 conditionals in terms of situation and structure.

    ZERO: WHEN / IF + PRESENT, PRESENT

    We use the zero conditional for certain repeated actions and for exceptional situations. It can also express facts. The present is used for both clauses and it doesn't matter which clause comes first:

    - When she goes swimming, she always eats a light lunch. (See if you can reverse the order)

    - If you expose ice to 0 °C, it melts. (See if you can reverse the order)

    FIRST: WHEN / IF + PRESENT, FUTURE

    The first is used for real or probable events of the future. The present is used in the first clause, while the future is uded in the second. Again, clauses are reversible, but the “when /if” clause typically comes first:

    - If it rains tomorrow, we'll have to postpone the event for one week.

    - When he gets here, boy, will he be surprised!

    SECOND: IF + PAST, WOULD / COULD + STEM VERB

    The second is hypothetical—used for cases in which we imagine an action and outcome, sometimes called the “unreal.” We combine “if” with the past and “would / could” with the main form of a verb. These can be reversed, but again, it's more typical to put the “if” clause first. Notice that when we use “to be” in the “if” clause, we always use “were”:

    - If she ran this company, she'd do things much differently.

    - If Japanese were more like English, I could learn it a lot more easily!

    THIRD: IF + PAST PERFECT, WOULD / COULD + PRESENT PERFECT

    The third seems to be the conditional of relief or regret. We use it when imaging a past course of action different from the one actually taken. We combine “if” with the past perfect and “would / could” with the present perfect. Again, the clauses are reversible, but the “if” comes first more often than not:

    - If I had listened to his advice, I probably would have lost a lot of money.

    - Margaritte never would've met that creep Jean-Paul if she hadn't gone to Tangier!

    WHENEVER / SHOULD

    Whenever can be used with the zero conditional.Should can be used with the zero, first and third:

    - Whenever you go to the immigration office, you should bring your passport.

    - If you have time tomorrow, you should stop by Sara's and see how she's doing.

    - I should've warned you if only I had been paying more attention!

    QUESTION FORMATION

    - Can you put this back together if it breaks? (Zero)

    - If I apologize, do you think Alejandro will forgive me? (First)

    - What would you do if an earthquake hit right now? (Second)

    - Would Ed have been any better off now if he'd kept his job with the government? (Third)

    This chart should help put the conditional in perspective:

    PROBABILITY

    CONDITIONAL

    EXAMPLE

    TIME

    100%

    Zero

    When you drink too much, you get drunk.

    any

    50%

    First

    If I feel better, I'll go to the game.

    future

    slight

    Second

    If a woman were PM, things would change.

    hypothetical future

    0%

    Third

    If he'd known how you felt, he never would've said that.

    past

    COMMON ERRORS

    Look at the examples and try to explain the corrections:

    X If it will rain tomorrow, the game would be postponed. O If it rains tomorrow, the game will be...

    X He cries whenever you call Billy stupid. O Billy cries whenever you call him stupid.

    X If the room was bigger, we can have a longer sofa. O If the room were bigger, we could have...

    X What will you do if you ever win the lottery? O What would you do if you ever won the lottery?

    X If I called him earlier, I would got an answer. O If I'd called him earlier, I would've gotten an answer.

    X What do you think, you went if he invited you? O Do you think you would've gone if he'd invited you?

    | Dr. M Language House | 13:07 | comments(0) | trackbacks(0) | - |