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Grammar Tutorial


A conditional clause is one that begins with the word if.

If Toni Viera is elected, taxes will increase.

Sentences with conditional clauses must have certain verb sequence. In the example above, the conditional clause uses the present tense verb is. The main clause uses the future tense verb will increase. Here are some examples using the past, subjunctive, and past perfect tenses in the conditional clause.

If you had a million dollars, you could buy a car.

If Mike were rich, he would give his money to charity.

If Jessie had been more careful, this accident would have been avoided.

The following chart summarizes the correct verb sequence to use in sentences containing conditional clauses.

Conditional Verb Tenses:

Form of verb in if clause

present (If he lies; If he is a liar)

past (If he had lied; If he had been a liar)

subjunctive (If he were a liar)

past perfect (If he had lied; If he had been a liar)


Form of Verb in main clause

future (he will lose)

would, could, or should plus the base form of the verb (would lose, could lose)

would have, could have, or should have plus the past participle (would have lost)


subjunctive tense is not a tense but is a mood rarely used in English to express various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred. The rule is, use the past and past participles of the verbs

For the Simple Present:

Use "were" with all "be" forms in the simple present.

If I were rich, I would give all my money to the poor. (I wish to be rich, but I am not rich in the present)

Use the simple past tense with verbs:

If you spoke slowly, I would understand you better. (You don't speak slowly now, so I don't understand you. I wish you speak slowly so I can understand you)



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