Conditionals

This module is designed to teach you the conditional structure in English. We are going to tackle this with The Bubble framework and by comparing it to French.

Conditionals in the Present

Put the following verbs into the correct conditional form in French

  1. Nous (déménager) en juin si nous trouvions une maison.
  2. Nous (déménager) en juin si nous trouvons une maison.
  3. Si j’avais le temps, je t' (aider).
  4. On (partir) si on avait une voiture.
  5. Tu (être) plus en forme, si tu  (faire) un peu de sport.

Now translate the following sentences into French

  1. If I were richer, I would buy a house. → Si j'plus riche, j'une maison.
  2. We would have eaten if they had been ready. → Nous s'ils prets.
  3. I will go to the market if you do the dishes. → J' au marché si tu la vaisselle.
  4. If I were you, I would have done exactly the same thing. → Si j'à ta place, j' exactement la même chose.
  5. Would you work extra hours if you were leaving the company in 2 weeks? → -tu des heures supplémentaires si tu la société dans 2 semaines?

Conditionals - the same in English and French!

Did you notice that Conditionals in English and French are basically the same? Woo-hoo! We can end this module here. Almost.

Indeed, if you feel that you use Conditonal forms correctly in French, then you can just translate directly. On the other hand,  if you sometimes mix up je ferais and je ferai, we'll need to come at Conditionals from a different direction.

Let's use Terry as an example. Terry currently lives in Paris and is originally from LA.

  • If Terry moves back to the US, his family will go with him.

Is it realistic or possible? Sure! Terry could move back, he loves the US and his daughters want to go to an American business school some day.

We use the present forms (Terry moves) and "will" (his family will go) to describe situations that are realistic or possible. We can also use The Bubble to show this. Everything inside the Bubble represents what is near to us - the Present (time) and what is real (distance from reality). This is why we use the present form for this "realistic" type of conditional sentence.

Everything outside the Bubble represents what is far from us - the Past (time) and what is imaginary or hypothetical (distance from reality).

So we can use the past forms and "would" to say:

  • If Terry lived in Meaux, he would buy a car.

The reality is that Terry doesn't live in Meaux. He lives in Paris. But the sentence is saying "let's imagine Terry lived in Meaux." We use the past forms and "would" to show this - that we are far from reality. Again, we are NOT using the past form because it takes place in the past. It takes place in the PRESENT and we are simply using the past form to create distance from reality.

To take another example, it is 10:45am and you just had breakfast, so you are not hungry. So you are not going to eat anything. This is the reality.

  • "I am not hungry. (Je n'ai pas faim). But if I was hungry, I would eat." (Si j'avais faim, je mangerais)

If the new release isn’t ready by June 23rd...

Complete the conditional sentence with the appropriate second part.,

  • the client will not be happy.
  • it wouldn't be a big deal.
  • I wouldn't have done that.

If I could speak English fluently…

Complete the conditional sentence with the appropriate second part.,

  • I will be so proud of myself.
  • I am setting a good example for my children.
  • I would go work abroad.

If I could change anything about my job…

Complete the conditional sentence with the appropriate second part.,

  • I am my own boss.
  • I would want to work from home.
  • I will make more money.

If you were in my position, what...

Complete the conditional sentence with the appropriate second part.,

  • will you do?
  • would you do?
  • do you do?

Managing projects would be simpler if...

Complete the conditional sentence with the appropriate second part.,

  • clients didn't change their minds all the time.
  • teams are located in the same place.
  • you keep project documents up-to-date.

If you send me the log files by the end of the week, we...

Complete the conditional sentence with the appropriate second part.,

  • would be able to help you.
  • will look into the issue next week.
  • would have been able to find out what the issue is.

Conditionals and their Meaning

If I knew his number, I would phone him.

What is another way to say the conditional sentence above?

  • I didn't know his number, so I can't phone him.
  • I don't know his number, so I can't phone him.
  • I know his number, so I will phone him.
  • I know his number but I can't phone him.

I would tell you if I knew the answer.

What is another way to say the conditional sentence above?

  • I didn't know the answer, so I couldn't tell you.
  • I don't know the answer, so I can't tell you.
  • I know the answer, so I will tell you.
  • I know the answer but I can't tell you.

We would need a car if we lived in the countryside.

What is another way to say the conditional sentence above?

  • We didn't live in the countryside, so we didn't need a car.
  • We don't live in the countryside so we don't need a car.
  • We live in the countryside so we need a car.
  • We live in the countryside but we don't need a car.

I would be happy to live in England if the weather was better.

What is another way to say the conditional sentence above?

  • I will not live in England because the weather is so bad.
  • I will live in England because the weather is so bad.
  • I will live in England because the weather is good.
  • I will not live in England because the weather was bad.

If I’d been hungry, I would have eaten something.

What is another way to say the conditional sentence above?

  • I wasn't hungry so I didn't eat anything.
  • I wasn't hungry but I ate something anyway.
  • I was hungry so I ate something.
  • I was hungry but I didn't eat anything.

If you didn’t work so much, you’d have more time for your hobbies.

What is another way to say the conditional sentence above?

  • You work too much but you still have time for your hobbies.
  • You worked too much so you didn't have time for your hobbies.
  • You work too much so you don't have time for your hobbies.
  • You don't work much so you have time for your hobbies.

I am not good enough at English to attend a steering committee meeting.

Now the other way around. Write a conditional sentence that means the same as the sentence above.

"If I ... at English, I ... a steering committee meeting."

I don’t visit you very often because you live in Les Ulis.

Write a conditional sentence that means the same as the sentence above.

I don’t have all the information, so can’t make a decision.

Write a conditional sentence that means the same as the sentence above.

I didn’t eat dinner, so that’s why this wine has gone to my head.

Write a conditional sentence that means the same as the sentence above.

(Note that this sentence is in the past)

I didn’t know you were coming so I didn’t make anything to eat.

Write a conditional sentence that means the same as the sentence above.

(Note that this sentence is in the past)

Conditionals - What Would You Say?

What would you say to explain this feeling to the client?

You’re in a progress meeting with a client and you’re the project manager.  The client isn’t very happy that you’ll be a few days over schedule.  You believe this to be because the client keeps making small changes to some of the requirements without getting express approval from you.

"We wouldn’t...

What would you say to invite the customer to call you this week to discuss the problem directly?

You’re writing an email to a customer.  In the last email you received the customer was confused about the solution you suggested to fix the problem she was having.  Instead of sending emails with several days between each one, you think it would be better to discuss the problem over the phone.

“I think... _________________will / would... _________________________________if...”

How could you explain this feeling to your boss?

Your boss is happy that you met the deadline, but not so happy about the quality of your work. You believe that too much importance is placed on meeting deadlines and not on quality, so the result is to be expected. 

“If…_____________________________would.._____________________________________”

Explain this to her.

Before finishing the final report for the customer analysis, you need one more piece of information from your South African colleague to complete the data and make your final conclusion.  Your boss is asking for the report because she is seeing the customer tomorrow, but you know it will be impossible to give it to her without this final piece of information.

“I..._____________________________if__________________________________”

On the all-employee call, the CEO says that he’s not happy about losing this client. Explain your theory to him.

You just lost a client because of continued issues with quality.  You think that one of the main reasons for this is the fact that teams are spread out all over the world in different time zones and rarely really meet to properly discuss important matters.

“If…__________________________would not_____________________________“

How can you explain this to your colleagues?

There’s an important deadline coming up and you and your team need to work over the weekend to get everything ready for the client demo on Monday morning.  Some of your team aren’t happy about spending "their" time working, especially as 2 people have been off sick for the last 2 months and they haven’t been replaced. You know and understand this, but also you believe that the client may leave you and that they may speak to other customers about their experience.  The only way to avoid this situation and to keep the customer is to work over the weekend.

“If we________________________________________________we_________________________”

You don’t think this is fair so how would you explain this to them?

The reason there are so many bugs to manage is due to the programming language you use, and not in the quality of the work of the programmers.  It is also due, in part, to the lack of organisation and communication between teams.  Top management have just issued an internal memo saying that outstanding bugs must be reduced by 50% in six months or else bonuses will be frozen. 

“There_____________________________________if…_______________________________”

Tell your old friend who is on the executive committee about what you think of their decision last year and its consequences, and also tell him about the future (according to rumours you’ve heard).

After going through with (mettre a execution) their decision to freeze bonuses last year, the management is now panicking about the fact that many employees are leaving to go to other competitors.  So far this year 15 people have handed in their notice (poser leurs démissions), and others are talking about doing the same.

“People____________________________________ if ________________________________”

Conditionals in the Past

Let's re-imagine the past

OK, now we are speaking about the PAST. We also use the past conditional for situations that are hypothetical, imaginary - i.e., far from reality. Fortunately, the English is the same as the French.

  • Si j'avais reçu le message, j'aurais su (que la réunion a été reporté).
  • If I had received the message, I would have known (that the meeting was postponed).

You will notice that we don't use the past simple forms to create distance from reality (like we did with the present conditionals) because the reality is now in the past. So we have to use the "past before the past" to create distance - i.e., the past perfect and "would have done."

To take an example, Erin went to Laos in 2014. She is an experienced traveler and has been to many countries in Asia, so she knew that it was a bad practice to drink the water or ice cubes. Nevertheless, on that trip, she drank a fruitshake (mixed with ice cubes). You can imagine what happened after that. So we can say:

  • If Erin hadn't drunk that fruitshake, she wouldn't have been sick.

The reality is that Erin drank the fruitshake and she was sick (it occurred in the PAST) but we are imagining a different reality. So "had(n't) done" and "would(n't) have done."

 

I understand that this is a tricky form to conjugate, so let's do some rote practice...

Sophie was in the hospital last week and you didn’t even go visit her.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (go) to visit her!"

How come you let Mathilde walk home all by herself after dinner last night?

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (drive) her home!

Poor David couldn’t go to the concert last week because he couldn’t afford a ticket.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (buy) him a ticket!

Your colleague went out for lunch without an umbrella. Now he/she is in bed with pneumonia.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (lend) him mine!

Donald and his wife didn’t go out to celebrate their anniversary. They couldn’t get a babysitter for their kids.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (send) my son over to their house to babysit!

Poor Christophe has been wearing the same shirt all week because his washing machine is not working.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (tell) him to come to my house to do his laundry!

Stephane was very upset. None of his friends remembered his birthday.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (make) him a cake!

Erin invited friends for dinner last night, but she’d never cooked before and she was in a panic.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (give) her a foolproof recipe!

Isabelle couldn’t go away for the weekend because she didn’t have the heart to leave her five cats alone for so long.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (babysit) her cats for her!

I didn't make it to Francis's retirement party because I didn’t know how to get there.

In the sentence below, I am telling you surprising news - i.e.,  something that you didn't know. So you are responding with, "Oh, if I had known..." (si j'avais su) and you just have to supply the second part of the conditional sentence.

Note that "would have" is followed by the past participle - i.e, the third form in the irregular verb table that you had to memorize in school. It's the same form used in the present perfect ("I have seen") and the passive ("It was known"). If you don't remember the irregular verb table very well, you may want to do the irregular verb section of The Bubble module.

"Oh, if I had known, I (give) you directions!

We didn’t hire an extra resource because we didn’t have the money. But...

Now you are a master at conjugating "would have done", right? So let's practice the whole thing. Below is a situation in the past and you are going to imagine the opposite.

For example:

We delivered on time so the client wasn’t disappointed. But…

If we hadn't delivered on time, the client would have been disappointed.

... if we the money, we an extra resource.

You got into so much trouble because you didn’t listen to me. But…

Below is a situation in the past and you are going to imagine the opposite.

For example:

We delivered on time so the client wasn’t disappointed. But…

If we hadn't delivered on time, the client would have been disappointed.

... if you to me, you into so much trouble.

The woman didn’t die because she received medical attention. But…

Below is a situation in the past and you are going to imagine the opposite.

For example:

We delivered on time so the client wasn’t disappointed. But…

If we hadn't delivered on time, the client would have been disappointed.

... if she medical attention, she .

The tool failed the integration tests, so we had to redo it. But…

Below is a situation in the past and you are going to imagine the opposite.

For example:

We delivered on time so the client wasn’t disappointed. But…

If we hadn't delivered on time, the client would have been disappointed.

... if the tool the tests, we redo it.

We ran out of budget because we didn’t plan thoroughly (well) enough. But…

Below is a situation in the past and you are going to imagine the opposite.

For example:

We delivered on time so the client wasn’t disappointed. But…

If we hadn't delivered on time, the client would have been disappointed.

... if we better, we out of budget.

Was Sam lucky or unlucky?

Sam had a plane to catch, but on his way to the airport his taxi broke down and he arrived too late at the airport.  Check-in had closed and his gate was closed too.  While he was waiting for another flight he saw pictures of a plane crash on the television.  It was the plane he had just missed!

Do you think he was lucky or unlucky? Why?

(Your answer should have a conditional sentence and keep in mind that this story took place in the past).

Was Catherine lucky or unlucky?

Catherine buys a lottery ticket every week and she plays the same numbers.  6, 9, 17, 21, 33 and 13.  Last week she didn’t have any spare change on her so she didn’t buy the ticket.   You can guess what happened next!  Her numbers came up! And there was no other person who had the right numbers.

Do you think she was lucky or unlucky? Why?

(Your answer should have a conditional sentence and keep in mind that this story took place in the past).

Was Patrick lucky or unlucky?

Patrick was travelling in the Middle East and was sitting down in an outdoor café having a drink.  Next to the café some workmen were repairing an old building.  For some unknown reason he decided to move to another table and finish his drink.   A few minutes later a big wooden beam crashed down onto the table where he had been sitting a few minutes before...

Do you think he was lucky or unlucky? Why?

(Your answer should have a conditional sentence and keep in mind that this story took place in the past).

Practicing Past and Present Conditionals

1 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

You should tell your boss exactly what happened. And if I  (be) you, I  (tell) him as soon as possible.

2 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

If I  (prepare) for the conference call yesterday, I  (sound) more fluent.

3 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

If we (fix, not) this bug within 24 hours, we  (be) in violation of the SLA (Service Level Agreement).

4 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

It’s my birthday so I brought croissants to the office. I brought a lot of croissants, maybe too many. If there  (be) some left over, I  (give) one to my English teacher.

5 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

Sebastien only has two pairs of socks. If he  (have) more than two pairs of socks, he  (have to, not) wash his socks so often.

6 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

When Erin went to Laos, she drank a fruit shake and got sick. If she  (be) more careful, she  (get, not) sick.

7 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

Because this is an urgent issue, it  (be) great if you  (can send) me the log files by end of day today.

8 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

We’ve been in the planning phase of the project for over a month. If we  (move on, not) to the development phase, we  (fall) behind schedule. If we  (fall) behind schedule, we  (run) over budget.

9 - Complete the conditional sentences by writing the correct form of the verb in ( )

Bertrand usually catches the 8:30am train to Saint Lazare. It’s unpleasant because it’s always crowded and he can never get a seat. But if he  (take) the train half an hour earlier (at 8:00am), he  (have, not) this problem.