If Clauses rules, examples | Complete Conditional Clauses in English

What are CONDITIONAL CLAUSES or If Clause?

A conditional clause is a type of adverbial clause that is used during the talk of a hypothesis or condition, real or imagined situation. Significantly, there are main 04 types of Conditional clauses. Conditional sentences consist of a main clause and a conditional clause (sometimes called an if-clause). The conditional clause usually begins with if or unless or when. The conditional clause can come before or after the main clause.

Types of conditional clauses

Study the following sentence carefully and mark the verb forms in them

Type-1= If you heat iron, it expands.

Type-2= If he comes, I shall help him.

Type-3= If he came, I would help him.

Type-4= If he had come, I would have helped him.

Explanation of conditional clauses or if clause

Each of the above sentences may be divided into two main parts: let it be ‘x’ and ‘y’ parts.

Types of
X partY part
Type-1If you heat iron, it expands.
Type-2 If he comes, I shall help him.
Type-3 If he came, I would help him.
Type-4If he had come,I would have helped him.
Explanation of if clauses with parts

      The main/principal clause of the conditional clauses

Part X of each sentence is introduced by ‘if’. It is called the if clause or conditional clause. It states the condition that must be fulfilled before part Y may be true. The X part (if-clause) begins with ‘if’ and the use of a ‘comma’ comes after it. Part Y of each sentence is called the main (principal) clause. The sentence with the ‘if clause” and the main clause is called the conditional sentence. The two parts of each sentence may be written in reverse order with no change in meaning.

Example: Iron expands if you heat it. Mark that the main clause (Y-part) is written first and then the if clause (conditional clause/X-part) There is no use of a ‘comma’ after the main clause.

Note:  There are many types of conditional clauses, but the examples above represent perhaps the four commonest and the most useful ones to learn initially. Let us study them one by one.

Type-1 Conditional Clauses : (Universal Truth or Scientific Facts or General Validity)

Look at the following sentences:

1. If you heat ice, it melts.

2. If I make a promise, I keep it.

Now divide both the above sentences into two parts such as ‘if clause’ and the ‘main clause’.

Let’s have if clause as ‘X’ and the main clause as ‘Y’.

Now we find in X part (if clause) a present simple verb ‘heat’.

The verb ‘heat’ represents the ‘heating action’. It is the cause and it happens first.’ This ‘heating action’ is known as the condition. Now we can call it a conditional clause. So the condition lies in the X part (if-clause). In the Y part (main clause) , we find a present simple verb ‘melts’ . In this part ‘melting’ is the action and it happens later. It is the result of the condition. We call this action (melting’ the result / effect. So in a conditional clause, we get the condition and effect relationship. This type of ‘if sentence’ states what is always true (general truth), such as a scientific fact. In these sentences ‘if’ can be replaced by when (ever) or every time that. Both the parts X and Y remain in a balancing state or zero state. So this type of conditional sentence is called Type-0 Conditionals/zero condition sentences. Similarly, sentence 2 talks about what I usually do when (ever) I make a promise. When we talk about a general occurrence in the past, we use the past simple tense in both the parts / clauses. Sentence 2 can be written as:

2. If I made a promise, I kept it.

Summary of the form:

X part à if clause à present simple verb à condition à happens first

Y part à main clause à present simple verb  à effect à happens later/next/second.

These sentences are statements of universal truth or scientific facts or general validity.


Example: What happens if you pour oil on water?

Ans: If you pour oil on water, it floats.

  • What happens if you hit red-hot iron?
  • What happens if you kick a football?
  • What did we usually do if it rained?
  • What happens if flowers don’t get water?
  • Who do people go to see if they feel ill?
  • What happens if the sun sets?
  • What does a teacher do if you make a mistake?
  • What did the police do if they caught a theif?
  • What do you do if you are sleepy?
  • What do you do if your hair is untidy?

Type- 2. Conditional Clauses (Real condition)

Study the following sentences:

Mark the verb forms in them.

  • If we catch the 9 o’clock train, we shall get there by lunch-time.
  • If you work hard, you will get a first division.
  • If you don’t hurry, the others will go without you.
  • If you wake up before me, give me a call.

In the above examples, we notice present simple verbs in the if-clauses (X-part) and will/shall like modals followed by the main verbs and the imperative in main clauses (Y-part)

Look at sentence I “Catching the 9 o’clock train’ is the condition and ‘getting there’ is the result/effect. This is an open condition that may or may not be fulfilled. We make such statement when the action or even mentioned in the conditional clause is being actively considered or appears likely to happen. Here the present tense in the ‘if clause’ refers to a more possible future action.

Study the following sentce:

If you touch that plate, you will burn your fingers.

Here in the ‘if clause’ we get a present simple verb ‘touch’ and in the main clause a modal ‘will’.

‘To touch a hot-plate’ is the action and ‘to burn the fingers’ is the result.

Only a fool would fulfill this condition. It seems likely that someone is going to a something foolish or dangerous in the future. Conditions of this sort talk about what is probable or more possible or likely to happen if it is fulfilled. It is important to note that the conditional (Type-1) is therefore called the ‘real condition’.

Note that will and shall are not used in a predicative sense in the conditional clasue even though it is the future that is referred to.

Note:  We have come across the basic form the Type-1 conditional sentences. There are many variations to this basic form. The ‘if-clause’ can take other present tense forms (progressive, perfect and perfect progressive), and the main clause can take other present modals (may, can etc.) to express the speaker’s attitude.

Consider the following sentences:

(i) If we are having visitors, the house will need a good cleaning.

(ii)  If you have finished with the compute, I will put it away.

(iii) If you are to resign, you must finish you work in time.

Further, the ‘if-clause’ can take shall/will to express the meaning or willingness or insistence or refusal.

(iv) If you’ll put the children to bed, I’ll do the washing up. (If you will put=if you are willing to put)

(v) If my younger brother will see them, what can I do? (Insist on)

(vi) If he won’t do the job, I’ll have to do it myself. (Refuses to)


Example: What will Suvendu do if he loses his pen tomorrow? (buy another one)

Answer: If Suvendu loses his pen tomorrow, he will buy another one.

  1. What will Shella do if she can’t catch the bus? (Walk)
  2. What will Chikul do if the shop is closed? (go to another one)
  3. What will you do if somebody steals your purse? (complain to the police)
  4. What will you do if it rains? (Not go out)
  5. What will the postman do if he cannot find the house? (take the letter back to the post office)
  6. what will Sritam do if he makes his shirt dirty? (wash it)
  7. What will you do if you go to Puri? (see Loard Jagannath)


In column “A” some if-clauses are given. Under “B you will find some main classes. Match each if-clause with an appropriate main clause so as to form a conditional sentence. Give punctuation marks wherever necessary.

1. If you are tired(a) We will lose the match.
2. If we don’t bat well(b) your cheque cannot be cashed.
3. If we are going shopping(c) you can eat here.
4. If there isn’t enough money in your account(d) tell him I will go to his place this evening
5. If you are hungry(e) take a rest.
6. If Bakul Phones(f) we can eat out tonight
If-cluases and main clause matching exercise


Join the following sentences using “if”. In the main clause use will/can. The first one has ben done for you.

  1. It might rain. If so, we’ll eat inside. Ans. If it rains, we will eat inside.
  2. I may arrive a bit early. I will help you get things ready.
  3. The parcel may arrive today. you’ll have to sign for it.
  4. Abinash will fail the examination. But he can take it again.
  5. You ask for a pay rise. you’ll probably get one.

Type-3. Conditional Clauses: Possible, Imaginary, contrary to the present fact, Hypothetical

See the examples

  1. If you caught the 9 o’clock train, you could get there by lunch-time.
  2. If I came into a fortune, I would give up working.
  3. If I knew how it worked, I could tell you what to do.

In the above sentences the “if-clause” have verbs in the simple past tense. The main clauses have would/could like past modals followed by the main verbs.

In these sentences, the conditional/if-clauses represent what is possible (sentence 1) imaginary (sentence 2) or contrary to the present fact (sentence 3). Here the verb form in the conditional clause represents the attitude of the speaker towards the condition. it does not represent time, which is indicated (if at all) by other elements in the context or situation.

Examine Type-1 and Type-2 conditional sentences:

-If you catch the 9 o’clock train, you’ll get there by lunch-time (open/real conditional)

-If you caught the 9 o’clock train, you could get there by lunch-time. (less real conditional)

In type-1, catching the train is more possible which will happen in the future> it is a real/likely open conditional sentence.

Sentence-2, on the other hand, is much more hypothetical. It is a form of day-dreaming.

Sentence-3, presents us with a totally imaginary (or unreal) situation, with reference to the time of speaking> it implies that I don’t, in fact, know how it works, so I can’t tell you what to do. Note that the past tense is used here to indicate the lack of present reality.

Extra note for Learners: Remember that in this type-2 conditionals, we can use other modals (their past tense forms) in both the main clause and if-clause. Look at the following sentence.

(I) If you would reserve seats, we would be sure of a comfortable journey.

(ii) They should be surprised if it was less than four thousand.

In sentence (i), would represent a more tentative (or polite ( form of will as used in the conditional clauses of Type-1. It introduces the idea of your agreeing or being willing, to do what is suggested.

In the if-clause, were can be used with both plural or singular subject. This is traditionally called the subjunctive. It is formal. ‘Was’ with the singular subject is more common in modern English.

If the auxiliary in the if-clause is should, were or had, we can put this verb at the beginning of the clause, omitting if.

(i) If it were true, it would still not solve our problem.

(ii) Were it true, it would still not solve our problem.

Sentence-(ii) comes without “if”, and can be used in spoken English.


Answer the questions with if sentences of Type-2.

  1. What would you do if you saw a house on fire?
  2. What would you say or do if someone called you a fool?
  3. What would you do if you had something stolen?
  4. What places of interest would you visit if you went to Delhi?
  5. What famous person would you like to meet if you had the chance?


Given below are some if clauses under column A. Under ‘B’ you will find some main clauses. Match each if-clause with appropriate main clauses so as to form a conditional sentence. Remember to use punctuation marks.

1. If I won a lottery
2. If I were you
3. If you were a good boy
5. If my phone was working
6. If we had more money
(a) I would call you.
(b) I would give up my job.
(c) We would live in a better place.
(d)I wouldn’t speak so frankly to your boss.
(e) I would not scold you so often.
Match If-clause with an appropriate Main clause


Imagine the following situations and fill in the blank spaces. The first one has been done for you.

  • If man had wings, ___________________________

Ans. If man had wings, he would fly.

  • If I was an elephant, ___________________________
  • If my father was a king, ___________________________
  • If I were deaf, ___________________________
  • If I had enough money, ___________________________
  • If you took the car, ___________________________
  • If you lost your book, ___________________________
  • If wishes were horses, ___________________________
  • If animals became men, ___________________________
  • If ponds became rivers, ___________________________

Summary of Tyep-2. Conditionals:

If clause à past tense, Main clause à would/could like past models. Less possible likely or imaginary/hypothetical condition in the future or contrary to the present moment of speaking.

Type- 4. Conditional Clauses: (Unreal / Completely hypothetical, impossible, imaginary)

Study the following sentences:

  • If India had won the match, they would  have got through the final.
  • If we had taken your advice, we would have saved a lot of time.
  • If he had arrived in time, he could have witnessed the match.

In the above sentences, the verb in the if-clauseis in the past perfect tense ( had past participle form). In the main clause, we have would/ could like past modals followed by the past participle form of the verb.

Here we use in if-clausethe past perfect tense to talk about what did not actually happen. I Sentence 1, ‘if India had won’ mean that India did not win. So they did not get through the final. This sentence is completely hypothetical/imaginary, and represents what is contrary to the past fact.  In this case, the past perfect tense in the if-clause is used to indicate past unreality.  We use this conditional to talk about impossible or imaginary events or situations in the past.

Note to the Teacher:

There are some of the variations of the basic form:

1. If I hadn’t been working in the garden. I would have been burnt.

2. If Mohan hadn’t given shelter to the stranger, his child would not have lived.

Variations on type-3 sentence are not very common, though the above sentences are occasionally met with.


Given below are some if-clauses under column ‘A”.  You will find some main clauses under ‘B’> Match each if-clause with an appropriate main clause so as to form a conditional sentence. Use punctuation marks wherever necessary.

1. If you had not turned off the gas
2. If you had driven carefully
3. If I had known that you like pickle
4. If you had not reminded me
5. If he had taken his medicines regularly
6. If you had locked your car
(a) It wouldn’t have got stolen.
(b) I would have forgotten to pay my fees.
(c) You would not have had an accident.
(d) I would have brought you some.
(e) The food would have got burnt.
(f) He would not have fallen seriously ill.


For each situation write a type-3 sentence with ‘if’.

The first one has been done for you.

  • I couldn’t buy the book because I did not have any money.

Ans. I could have bought the book if i had had some money.

  1. Reeta went to bed late and so she overslept
  2. She didn’t lock her bike and it got stolen.
  3. I didn’t notice the mistake. I didn’t check the figures.
  4. No one watered the flowers, so they died.
  5. My brother did not work hard and he could not do well in the examination.

Learn more about conditional clauses

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