Teaching the Conditional in the Present and Future Tenses

There are many times when we need to talk about something that may or may not be true. The problem is that we don’t know if it is true or not and we want our listener to know about our doubt. This can be very important as we might want to meet someone but we aren’t sure about the time. This article will explain the grammar and provide interesting activities.

I would fly in a balloon if…

There are three words for the Conditional:

Would – expresses your intent – I would like to buy a car.

Could – tells what you are able to do – I could help my family.

Should – tells your duty – I should visit my aunt in the hospital.

The conditional sentence is often used to ask politely for something:

I would like to have a cup of coffee.

Let’s look at Conditional sentences with:

Untrue Facts in the Present Tense

First: What is a Clause?

A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a verb


(I would meet her at 7:00) (if she weren’t at work)

If the sentence is untrue at the time, use the past tense in the “if clause”.

If “to be” is used, then use “were” in the if clause for the singular and the plural.

This is all very complicated. Students can’t stop in the middle of a conversation to consider these rules. So, let’s introduce them to the rules and then supply lots of practice.

Here’s a whole class activity:

Give the students the first clause and have them provide the second.

Be sure that they use the past tense in the “if” clause.

1. I would fly in a balloon, if …

2. I could visit Paris, if …

3. I would visit my friends, if they … 

4. I would hike up a mountain, if …

5. If I were famous, I …

Possible answers:

1. if I had one. 2. if I had the money 3. if they were at home.



4. if I lived near one. 5. I would be rich.


Untrue Facts in the Future Tense

If the future tense “will” is used, put the “if clause” into the Present Tense.

EXAMPLE: I will cook some apples if I have them.

See Also:

Learning English with Laughter

Students using our curriculum learn their grammar.

About brian_mu8dft39

Successful ESL was created out of our first company, Learning English With Laughter which began in 1990 when we, George and Daisy Stocker, traveled to the historic city of Karlovy Vary in Czechoslovakia, to teach English in a private language school. Communism was over and the people were embarking along the road to democracy. There were hundreds of students eager to learn the English Language, but suitable textbooks were non-existent. Consequently, we wrote as we taught, making countless revisions as we listened to the students' special needs. Upon returning to our home in Victoria, Canada, we have adapted the Teen-adult Series to meet the cultural needs of students in a number of different countries. A variety of adaptations have been achieved through contacts with many countries. Thousands of students have encouraged us to use a conversational approach to English that stresses communication in a variety of everyday situations. See our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Successful-ESL-Ltd/322661351104350
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