Conditionals (advanced)

Mixed conditionals

It is possible to have sentences that mix conditionals in

… an if clause referring to the past with a main clause referring to the present or future.

If I had finished my law degree, I would have found a better job. (3rd conditional)

If I had finished my law degree, I would probably be a lawyer now. Mixed conditional

… an if clause referring to the present or future with a main clause referring to the past.

If I had the money, I would buy a car. (2nd conditional)

If I had the money, I would have bought a car long ago. Mixed conditional

Conditional linking words and alternatives to if

as/so long as   –   even if   –   in case of/in the event of   –   whether   –   on condition that   –   otherwise   –   providing/provided (that)   –   unless

As long as you can check your email, we can stay in touch

They’re holding the carnival even if it is cold and wet. (although it is cold and wet)

I’ll attend the meeting provided (that) I can get time off.

In the event of / in case of cancellation, a full refund will be provided. (in case of ≠ in case)

I hope Val emails me today. Otherwise, I’ll have to call her.

Formal style

In more formal styles we can omit if , but we have to place the auxiliary verb before the subject (inversion).

1st conditional

If you require anything …  (or) If you should require anything… (formal)
Should you require anything…

2nd conditional

If I was/were in his shoes, I wouldn’t do it
Were I in his shoes, I wouldn’t do it

If he pushed the button, we’d all have problems
Were he to push the button, we’d all have problems

3rd conditional

If I had known that you were going to…
Had I known you were going to

More examples and notes

Had I known (=If I had known) you were not going to be available, I would have called the meeting for another day.

Had I not booked (=If I hadn’t booked) a return ticket, I would be able to stay for another month.

Were Tim (=If Tim were/was) my son, I would not hesitate to help him    (Was Tim my son, … colloquial)

If + should  is common in formal letters.

If you should require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

For even greater formality, omit if  and begin the sentence with should  (inversion)

Should you wish to contact me, I can be reached at the above address.

If + will / would  is used to make requests more polite.  will/would  means ‘be willing to’

If you will just bear with me for a few moments, I’ll tell the manager that you are here.

If you would be kind enough to supply the additional documentation, we will be able to offer sound advice on your investments.

Other uses – If + (should) happen to / If + were to

Use If + (should) happen to  to suggest that something is more unlikely or just a chance possibility.

If you (should) happen to run into my old friend Simon, do say hello to him from me.

Use If I/you/he… were to  for more hypothetical or unthinkable events

If I were to learn that a friend was being paid to promote a product to me, I would be really angry.

If the bus were to have gone over the railings, all the passengers would have drowned.

Suppose = What if…?

Suppose  means what if…?  and it is used with…

  • The present simple to describe something that may possibly happen or may have happened.

Suppose someone hears us.  (=What if someone hears us)

Suppose someone tells her what you said.

  • The past simple to talk about something that is imaginary or unlikely to happen in the future

Suppose Caroline found out about the letter.

  • The past perfect to talk about something that could have happened in the past but didn’t

Suppose we had never met or you had been born in another country.


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