English Language Reference Grammar: Part 1 -Conditionals (past reference)

We can use if to speculate about the likely effects of things being different in the past. We often use this type of conditional to talk about regrets and make accusations.

  • If we hadn’t invested so heavily in dotcoms, we’d have saved ourselves a fortune!

(but we invested heavily and we didn’t save a fortune)

  • You could have got an interview with that company if only you’d taken my advice.

(but you didn’t get an interview because you didn’t take my advice)

  • If our lawyers hadn’t spotted that mistake in that contract, we’d be in a real mess!

(but they spotted it and so we are not in a real mess)

  • If you’d told me about it sooner, I might have been able to do something.

(but you didn’t tell me sooner so I couldn’t do anything)

  • He might never have been able to start his own business if his father hadn’t helped him.

(but he started his own business because his father helped him)

 

  • If she’d taken her studies more seriously, she wouldn’t be flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

(but she didn’t take her studies seriously and now she’s working at McDonald’s)

Study the information above and answer the following questions.

a. What grammatical tense is used in the if-clause of all the examples?

b. What modal verbs are used in the main clause?

c. What tenses follow the modal verbs in the examples?

d.Which sentences directly refer to the effects of the past on the present ?

Now complete the conversation using the pairs of words below:

could+tried -  done+have  - hadn’t+wouldn’t -  have+known   -promised+would -  would+could

Two colleagues are having an argument.

A:  All I’m saying is, if you’d (a)__________ something about it sooner, we could_________ prevented this whole nightmare from happening.

B:  I know, I know. And I (b)___________ have if I _________have, but I couldn’t.

A:  You (c)________ have if you’d_______, you mean.

B:  Maybe if I hadn’t already (d)_________, I________ be able to put them all off.

A:  Well, anyway, it’s too ,late now. You know, I’d never (e)________asked you to organise these visits if I’d_______you weren’t clear about it.

B:  Well, if you (f)_________ said you wanted us to get involved in the local community more, I probably_________ have had the idea in the first place.

A:  I mean, what were you thinking of? You’ve organised factory tours three infant schools, an old people’s home and the Bulgarian Embassy all on the same morning!

* Which example above does not contain the past perfect?

Ok that’s enough for now. This was just a quick blog post to get you thinking, test your knowledge and help you practise.

More to follow in part 2 of this theme.

Good luck with your English language learning.

Simon

Ok English

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