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{CONDITIONAL STATEMENTS}

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Words of Wisdom

There seems to have been in every period of the past, as there is now, a distinct apprehension in the minds of very many worthy persons that the English tongue is always in the condition approaching collapse, and that arduous efforts must be put forth, and put forth persistently, in order to save it from destruction.

—  The Standard of Usage in English (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1908): 1-2.

— Thomas R. Lounsbury



Transcript
 
Welcome to the Write Right Podcast. Today, we’re going to be talking about conditional statements—what they are and how to use them. First of all, conditional statements follow a basic construction of an if clause plus an independent clause. The if clause can be introduced by if, unless, or when. There are four basic types of conditional statements: factual, predictive, present-future speculative, and past speculative.
 
First we’ll talk about factual conditional statements. Factual expresses factual relationships, such as scientific truths or habitual truths. Scientific truths always use the present tense. For example, in the example “If water heats to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, it boils,” the verbs “heats” and “boils” are both in the present tense because every time that water heats to 212 degrees, it boils. Now with habitual truths, you need to use the same tense for both verbs in the sentence. So in the example, “When I study hard, I make good grades,” since I used the present tense “study” in the first part, “make” also needs to be in the same tense as “study.” So they’re both in present tense.
 
The next type of conditional statements we’re going to talk about are predictive. Predictive statements predict the future. It also expresses future plans and possibilities. The way this is constructed is with a present if clause and an independent clause that uses will, can, should, or might plus the simple form of the verb. For example, “If I study hard, I should get an A on my test.” Now you’ll notice that in the if clause, “study” is in the present tense, while in the independent clause, the word “should” is used as well as the simple form “get.”
 
Next we’ll talk about present-future speculation. Present-future speculation is understood as an unlikely or impossible situation. Now this construction uses a past verb in the if clause and the independent clause uses would or could plus the simple form of the verb. For example, “If I were a better student, I could make better grades.” “Were” is in the past tense and the independent clause has “could” and the simple form, “make.” “Were” is always used in the if clause when using the past tense, instead of “was.”
 
The final type of conditional statement we’re going to discuss is past speculation or also called contrary to fact. As the name suggests, this type of conditional statement is contrary to the true past. In this construction, the if clause uses had plus the participle of your verb, and the independent clause uses would have or could have plus the participle. For example, “If I had studied harder, I would have gotten better grades.” So in the if clause, “had” plus the participle “studied,” and then the independent clause has “would have” plus the participle “gotten.”
 
And that concludes our lesson on conditional statements. Thanks for listening.


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