Skip to main content

Conditional Forms of Verb: Guidelines for Using Them Correctly

Here are some sentences:

If I got the first class, I would go and join a Medicine program.
If I had worked hard, I could have got through in the examination.
If I work hard, I will definitely pass this time.

These examples show three different forms of conditional verbs. The first one is an improbable (unreal) condition, second, an impossible condition and the third, probable (real) condition.

Now, we will see where to use which.

Real (Probable Condition)

This condition has a result happening in the future, based any present event. This is called real condition because there is every probability for it to happen. The first part of the condition (the condition status/if part) is usually expressed in the present simple form, and the result part is expressed in future simple. Examples:

If Mark is home, I will pay him a visit.
Joe will be here any moment, if the traffic is smooth.
The systems will work just fine, if you follow my instructions.

In some situations, the real condition can have the result expressed in present tense itself. When the situation mentioned is a general assumption, habit, or truth, both sides of the condition will be in the same tense form.

If I ring the bell, the page is always there.
If it rains all day, I don't go out.
If it gets late, she usually catches a taxi to get home.
He always beat the dog, if it howled.
Tom always found it interesting, if Sarah told him stories.

Unreal (Improbable) Condition

This condition expresses hypothetical statements that have no chance of happening in the future. The result becomes improbable because the condition was not met in the past. The condition is expressed in the past simple form, and the result, with auxiliary verbs like would, should, could, might, etc.

If he prepared harder, the team would win the trophy.
If I found a love, I could get married sooner.
If they had stronger limbs, hippos wouldn't spend more time in water.

Impossible Condition

This is a form of condition with no possibility of existence. This form should be used if neither the condition nor the result ever happened in the past. The condition is expressed in the past perfect tense, and the result in forms like would/could/might + have + PPt form of verb.

If Tom Cruise had acted in the third part of Jurassic Park, it could have been a big hit.
If we had kept the female kitten, we could have had more kitten now.


The conditionals form a greatly important section of grammar. Still, a lot of people make mistakes in this. This post may help correct them. Post your comments.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. The past participle of "got" is "gotten"--"I could have gotten" not "I could have got."

    Aside from that, definitely valuable advice.

  2. Peter, thanks for the comment. But 'gotten' as Ppt for 'get' is correct only in American English. Since CW is a publication for World English, with a lot of viewers from the UK and India besides the US, I will stick with get-got-got/gotten.



Post a Comment

Comments are moderated very strictly

Popular posts from this blog

What Is the Difference Between Hardcover and Paperback?

Today, my reader, Rahman contacted me with a doubt:

Dear Lenin, would you explain why there are two types of books: hardcover and paperback?
This is quite a simple affair and there are explanatory articles to be found at various places on the Net. Here is my addition.


A hardcover aka hardback is a book bound with thick protective cover, with usually a paper or leather dust jacket over the main cover. The aim of hardcover is protection and durability. These books are mainly for long-term use and collectors’ editions. Hardcover books last far longer than the corresponding paperbacks. They do not get damaged easily thus making them perfect for reference guides, great literary works, etc.

In addition, there is a difference in the type of paper used to print hardcover books. The paper used is long-lasting acid-free type. Acid-free paper has a pH value of 7 (neutral) which makes it highly durable. The papers are stitched and glued to the spine.

Hardbacks are prepared for commercial …

En Dash, Em Dash, and Hyphen

We have three types of dashes in use: The hyphen, En Dash, and the Em Dash. In this post, we will see how to use them all correctly.

Hyphen (-)

The hyphen is the minus key in Windows-based keyboards. This is a widely used punctuation mark. Hyphen should not be mistaken for a dash. Dash is different and has different function than a hyphen.

A hyphen is used to separate the words in a compound adjective, verb, or adverb. For instance:

The T-rex has a movement-based vision.
My blog is blogger-powered.
John’s idea was pooh-poohed.

The hyphen can be used generally for all kinds of wordbreaks.

En Dash (–)

En Dash gets its name from its length. It is one ‘N’ long (En is a typographical unit that is almost as wide as 'N'). En Dash is used to express a range of values or a distance:

People of age 55–80 are more prone to hypertension.
Delhi–Sidney flight was late by three hours.

In MS Word, you can put an En Dash either from the menu, clicking Insert->Symbol or by the key-combination, Ctrl + Num…

What Is the Meaning of the Word 'Ghajini'? Story and Trivia of Aamir Khan's New Film [Special]

[Special Entry]

Aamir Khan's latest film is titled a little weirdly for the taste of Hindi filmgoers. 'Ghajini': They have never heard of such a name, and such a word never existed in Hindi or in any other Indian language.

The name Ghajini is the name of the villain of the film. In Tamil version, the name of the villain was Laxman.

As a Tamil moviegoer, I have already watched Ghajini and know the story in full.

So, What Does the Title Mean?

In Tamil, the title of the film is inspired by the story of Mahmud of Ghazni, an ancient invader of India. This person was so persistent in invading India that he continued trying after several failures. In the film too, the protagonist is such persistent in finding out and killing the villain of the film, who had killed his girlfriend, Kalpana (played by Asin). Aamir's Character (named Sanjay Ramaswamy in Tamil), is a short-term amnesiac, who cannot remember anything more than fifteen minutes.

You may ask then how the Ghazni became…