Study English Grammar: It Is All Conditional
Summary: Study English Grammar
Learn about conditional verbs in English. The study of English grammar is difficult mostly because it is boring and technical. Today we prove that learning through listening can be a lot less boring.
This English grammar lesson breaks conditional verbs down into two groups and gives lots of useful examples which will help you understand what is going on. We even cover English tenses and how English (as usual!) breaks its own grammar rules.
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Audio Transcript: Study English Grammar: It Is All Conditional
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And just to prove that we’re listening to our listeners, I’m going to do a podcast today on a topic, a subject, which was a suggestion from one of our regular listeners. So thankyou to Ekaterina for this suggestion! And thankyou also to Ekaterina for all of your support and feedback – it’s really helpful to us! So remember, if you have a question or you would like us to cover a particular subject, then please let us know. I’m very happy to take suggestions – and to mention you in my podcast!
Now many of you who are learning English will study English grammar as part of the process. You might learn grammar as part of your college course – and learn it in a traditional way, where you study in a book and maybe you test yourself on sample sentences. Now to study English grammar in this way is going to help of course, but there are some parts of grammar that are more difficult, more difficult to understand, to ‘get your head around’ as we say. And studying by reading and writing tends to make you better at reading and writing in the new language, but it’s not quite so good to put this type of learning into practice when you come to speak. So maybe we can do it a different way?
How about we look at a piece of grammar, which English language learners find difficult? How about using verbs in the conditional? This is Ekaterina’s suggestion. The Conditional may be called The Conditional Mood or The Conditional Tense. And here we’re talking about the changes to verbs, when a situation is hypothetical, when it’s not yet happened and we’re just thinking about it happening, we’re talking about what’s possible.
When you study English grammar and you learn conditionals in your English class, you tend to learn that there are four types of Condition or Conditional Sentences - Type 0, Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3. So I’ll use these definitions, I’ll use these types to make it easier for those of you who study English grammar, but I’ll also try to make it easier for those who learn best through listening. Today I’ll cover Type 0 and Type 1 Conditionals.
If and Unless
First of all, most sentences which use conditional verbs - they have the word ‘If’ in them. However, sometimes, if you’re talking about a negative possibility, you can also use ‘Unless’. So there are sentences which have conditional verbs, which don’t have either ‘If’ or ‘Unless’, but if IF or UNLESS are there, this indicates it’s conditional. So some examples using IF….
‘If you eat all the chocolate, I will not be happy’ OR
‘If you eat your salad, I will give you chocolate’.
And using UNLESS
‘Unless you leave me some chocolate, I will not be happy’ OR
‘I won’t give you chocolate, unless you eat your salad’.
So IF and UNLESS are little conjunctions, little joining words, which show you that there’s a condition coming in the sentence. If you study English grammar, in particular conditionals, it’s kind of helpful to know that. OK, let’s cover just Type 0 and Type 1 conditionals. We’ll leave Type 2 and Type 3 conditions and mixed conditions for another day. This is complicated, so it needs breaking down.
So Type 0 Conditions
These are fairly simple. They are statements which are general truths. They are observations about the world, simple cause and effect. They’re always true, all the time and therefore they use the simple present tense.
So examples of Type 0 conditional sentences, talking about general truths, or things which always happen….
If you drink coffee, it makes you more awake.
Water boils, if you heat it to 100C.
If I’m awake, I get out of bed.
If you eat oranges, you’ll get Vitamin C.
Cats don’t stay living with you, unless you feed them.
Ice doesn’t melt, unless the temperature rises above zero.
OK, so far, so good. They’re easy ones.
Type 1 Conditionals
So I’ll give you an example to make it easier.
‘If the weather is nice tomorrow, we’ll go to the zoo.’
So basically we’re saying that if when we wake up tomorrow morning, the sun is shining, we will visit the zoo. Now if you are used to, if you’re familiar with simple conditional sentences, you’ll understand that. You’ll see the word ‘IF’ at the beginning of the sentence and probably recognise you’re dealing with a conditional.
If you’re newer to this, you’ll notice something funny happening with the tenses. Tenses by the way are the different forms of a verb, depending upon whether it’s past, present or future. So the meaning you take from this sentence is ‘There’s a possibility that we will go to the zoo tomorrow’. That’s fine, it matches. ‘Tomorrow’ is in the future and ‘we will go to the zoo’ is also future tense. But if you notice the first part of the sentence ‘If the weather is nice tomorrow’. The first bit - it’s a bit weird. The verb is in the present tense - ‘The weather is nice’, but the adverb is ‘tomorrow’, so it’s future, it hasn’t happened yet – but we’re using present tense!. It is absolutely grammatically correct. And this is because when you’re using conditional verbs with ‘if’, the tenses in English do slightly strange things. So that’s why it needs particular attention.
So let’s put that example into context. There are different types of conditions and the tenses of the verbs in English behave differently, according to what type of condition you are talking about. So the example I’ve given you above ‘If the weather is nice tomorrow, we’ll go to the zoo’ is a Type 1 Conditional.
So you use the Type 1 Conditional – in the following circumstances:-
EITHER there is a real situation happening right now, but you don’t know that it’s happening or you don’t know whether it’s true
OR there’s a real possibility of something happening in the future.
So the example of a Type 1 Conditional that I’ve given you, If the weather is nice tomorrow, we’ll go to the zoo’ is an example of the second one – a real possibility of something happening in the future. ‘If the weather is nice tomorrow’, uses the present tense, but it has a future meaning, and then there’s the PROBABLE RESULT, ‘We will go to the zoo’, so a simple future tense.
If it’s the first kind of Type 1 Conditional sentence, the condition may be happening right now, it’s just you don’t know it. Grammar-wise it works the same;-
‘If it’s raining outside, we will not go to the zoo’. (And that means I don’t know whether it’s raining now ‘cause I haven’t looked!).
‘If it’s sunny outside, we will go to the zoo.
‘If the potatoes are cooked, you can eat them straight away.
So conditional in that something may already have happened, but we don’t know yet.
Examples of Type 0 and Type 1 Conditionals
OK, let’s consolidate by giving more examples of these types.
Type 0 – remember, are things that always happen. General truths or rules.
If you smile, you look more friendly.
If he gets lost, he always phones me.
If you mix blue and yellow, you get green
He will not eat the biscuits, unless he knows they’re nut-free. (So they’re all Type 0)
So Type 1 where the condition may be true now, but we yet don’t know – so that’s simple present + simple future, for the effect, for the result.
If the parcel is at the post office, I will collect it.
If you agree with me, I will put the idea forward.
I’ll not wash my car, unless you are willing to help me.
I will drive my car, if you’re sure it’s safe.
I won’t drive my car, unless you are sure it’s safe.
And Type 1, again same form, but where everything is in the future – we’re talking about future possibilities but we’re using simple present and simple future.
If you bake a cake, I’ll help you decorate it.
You will be healthier, if you eat more vegetables.
If you do your homework, I will take you to the park.
I won’t take you to the park, unless you do your homework.
So just notice the order swaps round. Sometimes the IF comes at the start, or it’s the second bit of the sentence. And the UNLESS can be at the start, or the second bit of the sentence.
And what’s still to be covered….
OK. So there are two more types of Conditionals which use IF or UNLESS statements, that’s Type 2 and Type 3 – and there are Mixed Conditionals as well. They’re still waiting to covered. And there are modal verbs, like may and might, could or would, and how those work in conditional sentences. I’ll cover those in future podcasts. Hopefully by breaking it down, I make it a bit easier.
But let’s not try to do too much at once. Let us know whether this podcast helps you study English grammar.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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