Conditional Sentences

Expressing Cause and Effect

We use conditional sentences to express cause and effect.  The effect can be real, or it can be unreal, depending on the situation. When it is real, it is usually something that applies directly to our lives.  We call this the Real Conditional.  When it is unreal, we use our imagination to talk about something that might happen if something else were to happen. We call this the Unreal Conditional.

Real Conditionals

When we form the real conditional, we take a dependent if clause and connect it to a main clause.  The if clause shows the cause, and the main clause shows the effect.

IF + SIMPLE PRESENT + SIMPLE PRESENT

  • If I get up early in the morning, (then) I go jogging.
  • If students work, (then) they get paid.
  • If we buy food, (then) we eat.
  • If the wind blows, the windmills produce electricity.

IF + SIMPLE PRESENT + FUTURE (WILL)

  • If I go to Portland, (then) I will call you.
  • If the city repairs the roads, (then) traffic will improve.
  • If he accepts his proposal, (then) he will move to Atlanta, Georgia.
  • If an engineer does not design the building, (then) it will not be strong.

IF + SIMPLE PRESENT + MODAL (CAN, SHOULD, MAY, MIGHT)

  • If you pass the class, (then) you can go to the next level.
  • If the fire alarm goes off, (then) we should leave the building.
  • If manufacturers use GMO foods, (then) they should put it on the labels.
  • If a man does not work, (then) he should not eat.