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# An Easy Way to Teach Conditionals

## Lets talk about conditionals. I find

that the usual textbook method of presenting one conditional pattern in isolation
means that students will only remember and be able to use that one type. When
another pattern is introduced weeks or months later, they often wont remember
the previous pattern well enough to keep them both straight, and confusion is
the result. I started laying out all four patterns at once in my TOEIC classes,
where students needed to be able to distinguish between all types of conditional
sentences in the grammar section of the test. After a lot of positive feedback
from students, I started using this method in all my classes whenever one
conditional pattern came up in the textbook (or just came up in conversation). I
really found that all my students, even the low-intermediate ones, understood
conditionals so much better when all four patterns were clearly laid out for them.
The following list is exactly how I present conditionals in my classes. Just write
the patterns and the examples on the whiteboard, and read out the explanations
as you go!
1. IF + PRESENT, PRESENT

## Example: If he takes vitamins every day, he doesnt get sick. / He

doesnt get sick if he takes vitamins every day.

## Use this conditional to show an outcome that happens if

a specific repeated condition is met.

The verbs in the if clause and in the main clause will both be simple
present verbs (remind students that third person singular verbs end in
-s).

Make sure that students realize that the if clause and the main
clause order doesnt matterthe meaning is the same. I like to write out
both versions of my example, as Ive done above, so that this point hits
home.

## 2. IF + PRESENT, WILL + VERB

Example: If she studies for the test, she will get a good grade. / She will
get a good grade if she studies for the test.

## Use this conditional to show a likely or possible outcome that will

probably happen if a specific condition is met.

The verb in the if clause is a simple present verb, and the verb in
the main clause is will + base form of the verb.

Make sure to point out that the verb in the if clause will end in -s if the
subject is third person singular.

## Example (of an unlikely situation): If he won the lottery, he would quit

his job. / He would quit his job if he won the lottery.

## Example (of an impossible situation): If I had wings, I would fly to

Antarctica. / I would fly to Antarctica if I had wings.

## Use this conditional to show an unlikely or impossible outcome that

probably wouldnt happen (unless a specific condition were met).

The verb in the if clause is a simple past verb, and the verb in the main
clause is would + base form of the verb.

Make sure to point out that this is one case where its correct to use a
past tense verb for a future situation.

Note: The verb to be is always were with this conditional, even in the first
and third person singular. I usually give an example to ensure that
students understand this strange exception: If I were rich, I would buy
you a car. / I would buy you a car if I were rich.

## Example: If I had remembered to call my friend last night, she wouldnt

have sent me an angry text message. / My friend wouldnt have sent me
an angry text message if I had remembered to call her last night.

## Use this conditional to show a past regret or different outcome that

would have happened if a specific condition had been met.

## The verb in the if clause is a past perfect verb (had + past

participle form of the verb), and the verb in the main clause is a past
modal pattern (would + have + past participleform of the verb).

Make sure to tell students that this conditional isnt very common. We
dont often speculate about what might have happened in the past,
because we already know what actually happened.

As a review the next day, write this chart on the board to reiterate the four
conditional patterns:
1. Present: If + Present, Present
2. Future (Likely/Possible/Real): If + Present, Will + Verb
3. Future (Unlikely/Impossible/Unreal): If + Past, Would + Verb
4. Past: If + Had + P.P., Would + Have + P.P.