🇬🇧 Mixed conditionals

Mixed Conditionals

If I had studied a bit harder, I would be more confident about mixed conditionals!

We are very grateful to our students and social media followers for all interactions, especially suggestions for blog topics. This post is in response to a question from one of our Instagram followers: mixed conditionals. In English there are two typesof mixed conditionals:

  1. Present result of a past condition

We use this mixed conditional when we refer to a hypothetical (unreal) past situation and its probable result in the present.

Structure:

If + past perfect (condition clause) + present conditional (main clause)

Examples:

  • If I had caught the earlier train, I would be at home by now
  • If she had married David, she would probably be travelling a lot more
  • If she hadn’t lost her ticket, she would be at the concert now

Note: these examples can be swapped around without any change in meaning:

  • I would be at home by now if I had caught the earlier train
  1. Past result of present condition

This mixed conditional is used to explain a hypothetical (unreal) present situation and its most likely past result.

Structure:

If + simple past (condition clause) + perfect conditional (main clause)

Examples:

  • If they were interested in birdwatching, this holiday home would be perfect for them
  • If she could ride, her dad would have bought her a horse
  • If I had more money, I could have helped you out

As with the examples in the first section, these phrases can be switched around without any change in meaning:

  • I could have helped you out if I had more money

Also note: if you are able to use these mixed conditionals it is a sign of high-level English use – congratulations! But remember: they are not as common as the more straightforward first-, second- and third conditionals.

Future forms

Can you see the future? Maybe not, but you should be able to form it correctly if you follow these rules:

Crystal ball - English future forms

 form usage example impossible alternative
 shall / will + infinitive

 won’t is the negative in all forms

will is also used for conditional sentences

1 For predictions based on our belief or our knowledge of characteristic behaviour This medicine will make you drowsy.

You’ll feel better in the morning.

Do not use the present continuous in this case
2 Threats If you do that again, I’ll smack you! Do not use going to in this case
3 Offers I’ll pick you up at eight thirty if you want.

Shall I cook tonight?

4 Promises I promise I won’t forget your birthday.
5 Requests Will you take me to the airport?
6 Spontaneous decisions I think I’ll give up smoking

I won’t wear fancy dress

Shall I get the door for you?

Do not use going to or present continuous
7 Conditional I’ll come to the cinema with you if you buy the tickets.
 going to + infinitive or present continuous For things that have already been decided She’s going to open a restaurant in Tenerife.

=   She’s opening a restaurant…

When are you going to come and visit me?

=   When are you coming to visit me?

Do not use will + infinitive in this case
For things we’re sure will happen as we have present evidence I haven’t revised for this exam – I’m going to fail!

I feel very hot – I think I’m going to faint.

do not use will+ inf or present continuous
 present simple For timetabled events,

“public information”

The train leaves in half an hour

The lesson starts at ten.

 present continuous

 

For definite plans and arrangements I’m going to the opera on Sunday.

What are you doing at Christmas?

 future continuous

will + be + -ing

For an action that will be in progress at a definite time in the future I’ll be living in Hawaii in five years’ time.

Where will you be staying?

I’ll be working for myself by the end of the year.

 future perfect

will+ have + past participle

For something completed before a definite time in the future I’ll have been in England for three months at Christmas.

I’ll have finished the essay by Friday.

Frequently asked questions:

1. What’s the difference between shall and will?

It is very unusual to hear “I shall help you” or “You shall go to the party”. This is very old fashioned English.

However, shall is correct in questions when using the first person singular or plural (I and we)

“Shall I help you?”

“Shall we dance?”

2. Can I ever have will in both clauses of a (first) conditional sentence?

No. In the first conditional, you must use the following structure:

Main clause: will + verb

If clause: present simple or present continuous

“If it rains we’ll stay at home.”

“If you are using the first conditional, you must use this structure!”

Why is this incorrect? “If you will study then you will pass the exam.”

Perfect-English-Grammar.com has a very good page on this grammar point.

3. When I was at school, my teacher taught us that “will” is used for the future tense. Is this not right?

Well, it’s only part of the story. Look at the table above. You can see that we can use many different “tenses” to refer to the future. We can even use the past tense: “It’s time we left” … but that is a different post for another time!

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