The Communicative Grammar of English Workbook (2013)

UNIT TEN. Conditions

10.1. Open and hypothetical conditions

Sections 207–210; 275; 366–367

Conditional sentences typically consist of a conditional (sub)clause and a main clause expressing the result which follows if the condition is satisfied. There are three basic patterns:


If Tom wins a fortune in the lottery, he will buy a yellow submarine.

[= open condition: present/future time reference]


If Tom won a fortune in the lottery, he would buy a yellow submarine.

[= hypothetical condition: present/future time reference]


If Tom had won a fortune in the lottery, he would have bought a yellow submarine.

[= hypothetical condition: past time reference]

The two clauses often appear in reverse order.

Some of the above verb forms are replaceable by other forms, although there are a number of restrictions, especially in terms of tense.

If is by no means the only conjunction introducing a conditional clause.

In some sentences a conditional phrase is used instead of a conditional clause.

Task one *

Study the following sentences, deciding which of the three basic patterns of conditional they can be related to. Also discuss any special features.


Without an organ transplant, Robert Pennington would survive only hours.

Relatable to type 2: the conditional part ‘without an organ transplant’ can be replaced by, i.e. be expanded into, ‘if he didn’t get an organ transplant’.

1.If low wages were the chief magnet for industry, Haiti would be the manufacturing hub of the world.

2.Our hero will sacrifice the first living being he encounters, provided that he reaches land safely.

3.Supposing the minister concerned had decided to send a fleet of bombers to Tasmania: what would have happened?

4.You will not get an electric shock so long as you don’t touch that live wire.

5.Ground coffee loses its flavour within five or six days unless it is specially packaged.

6.If a driver is trying to overtake you, maintain a steady course and speed, slowing down if necessary to let the vehicle pass.

(The Highway Code, §144)

7.This information may be reproduced free of charge provided that it is reproduced accurately.

8.Unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise, you should use the left-hand lane when going left.

(The Highway Code, §121)

9.France and Germany might put aside their antagonism if given economic incentives for cooperation.

10.In case of burglary, report any loss of valuables to the local police.

11.In the event of renewed terrorist attacks, civil liberties might have to be curbed.

12.It is inconceivable that any scholar could have attained an important post in 1942 without the official sanction of the Nazi regime.

Task two **

Reword the following sentences, expanding them where necessary and using one of the three basic patterns.


Gerry Adams said there would be no peace process but for John Hume’s courage and vision.

… if John Hume wasn’t so courageous and didn’t have so much vision.


… if John Hume hadn’t been so courageous and hadn’t had so much vision … = if-clause refers to past time)

1.Given the opportunity, the tax office will take the easy way and grab whatever it can.

2.Without fear, the tax office would have a difficult time maintaining our system of so-called voluntary compliance.

3.In case of anticipated payment, please ignore this invoice.

4.Giving people confidence that information about them on the Internet is safe will boost electronic commerce.

5.The lieutenant governor succeeds the governor in case of the latter’s death, removal from office, or disability.

6.Don’t drive so fast or you’ll smash into a lamppost.

7.Failure to comply with the rules will result in a one point deduction or disqualification.

8.In the event of my not being elected I will be the member of parliament for Holborn and St Pancras.

(British politician Frank Dobson)

9.But for the protesters a passer-by might have mistaken the annual conference of the party for a mass funeral.

10.The Treaty of 1839 guaranteed the neutrality of Belgium in case of a conflict in which Great Britain, France and Germany were involved.

11.What happened to Mr Dias would have been prevented by a proper freedom of information bill.

12.Without reform and better relations with the United States, Iran will face a major drastic upheaval.

13.Cling too long to yesterday’s strategy and you could be in trouble, no matter how powerful you are.

14.Intensified violence would make it difficult to reach a negotiated settlement.

Task three **

Complete the following sentences, using forms of the verb in brackets which are compatible with the rest of the sentence.

1.If you (ever visit) ______________________ this area, (not miss) ______________________ the Science Centre.

2.Most people (send) ____________________ their kids to the best schools if they (strike) __________________ it rich.

3.Supposing for a moment that sea levels (rise) ________________ by several feet, don’t you think vast tracts of land (be) _______________ flooded.

4.Rodents (cause) _________________ severe damage to trees unless proper control measures (be) ___________________ employed.

5.Modern civilization (probably develop) _______________________ much more slowly if people (not move) ________________________ from place to place.

6.If you (be) ___________________ kind enough to help, we (can) ______________________ easily move all this stuff to the attic.

7.I (never pay) ____________________ such a huge sum if you (not lend) _________________ me 50,000 dollars that day.

8.If Herbert (not teach) _________________________ me how to swim, I (almost certainly drown) __________________________ in the lake that afternoon.

9.I (not have) _____________________ all these problems with my car now if I (choose) ______________________ to buy a more sophisticated model.

10.If the Soviet Union (make) __________________ honourable use of the idealism it inspired in the West, it _________________ still survive and be a happy place today.

11.Our whole strategy (have) ____________________ to be reviewed in case new problems (arise) ______________________ over the marketing of our products.

12.If the police (catch) __________________________ us then, they (send) ________________ us back across the border.

Task four **

Complete the following sentences, adding a main clause that is compatible with the conditional subclause or, alternatively, a conditional subclause that is compatible with the main clause.


If you had listened to me …

… you wouldn’t have run into trouble. (= continuing past time reference)

… you wouldn’t be in trouble now. (= present time reference)

1.If you see Arthur ………………………

2.If you were in my place …………………….

3.Will you lend me £20 if ……………………..

4.………………. would you have paid the bill?

5.I should have had my photograph taken if ………………

6.Surely if you …………………….. he would understand.

7.If he had told you everything ………………….

8.Would you have told him the truth if ……………….

9.…………………………. unless you come up with better arguments.

10.If you cannot deal with the problem yourself ………….

11.If ………………….. he would send me to the principal at once.

12.Wouldn’t it have been extraordinary if ………….

13.If I were Prime Minister ……………..

14.The Second World War would have run a very different course if …………

15.If William the Conqueror ………………..

Task five ***

All of the following sentences are from the 2001 Britannica Book of the Year: Events of 2000 (pp. 8–55) and use the so-called historic present (see CGE §131). It may be argued that these events would not have happened if the underlying causes had not existed. Such sentences could, therefore, be turned into hypothetical statements about the past, as in the following (adapted) example:

4 April:

Lord Archer is expelled from the Conservative Party for five years for breaches of political ethics and integrity.

Lord Archer would not have been expelled from the Conservative Party if he had not breached political ethics and integrity.

… if he had acted in accordance with political ethics and kept his integrity.

Now transform the next twelve sentences in similar ways, making any structural and lexical adjustments that are necessary.

1.20 January: A leading official in Germany hangs himself as a parliamentary group begins an investigation into illicit payments to his party in the 1990s.

2.27 February: The Limpopo River in southern Africa overflows its banks after weeks of heavy rains and disastrous flooding.

3.10 March: A dam in a Romanian mine breaks, causing spillage of toxic metals into nearby rivers.

4.5 April: A computer glitch closes down the London Stock Exchange for nearly eight hours on the last day of Great Britain’s fiscal year.

5.12 May: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticizes the US for its reluctance to participate fully in peacekeeping operations in Africa.

6.9 June: Buenos Aires is brought to a virtual standstill as workers stage a one-day strike to protest the Argentine government’s austerity plan.

7.2 July: The former communist rulers in Mongolia are returned to power after a landslide victory in the general election.

8.12 August: The Russian nuclear submarine Kursk sinks in the Barents Sea after the hull is damaged by a series of explosions.

9.16 September: Public transportation in Los Angeles shuts down as the United Transportation Union goes on strike.

10.5 October: Responding positively to a challenge from Germany, the European Court of Justice halts a proposed European Union-wide ban on tobacco advertising.

11.30 November: The city of Bethlehem cancels its traditional Christmas celebration owing to the ongoing violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

12.7 December: Officials in California declare a stage-three power alert as electricity reserves drop to dangerous levels.

Task six ***

Rewrite the following dialogue, using conditional sentences (eight in all).


Go home now, otherwise your Dad won’t be too pleased.

If you don’t go home now, your Dad won’t be too pleased.


The world will be like paradise twenty years from now. Ever more robots will relieve us of all sorts of boring tasks.


I don’t agree. Life on earth might be hell. Just imagine these robots becoming more intelligent than humans. Some of them could even develop into monsters. Scientists may decide to fit them with brains.


What? Scientists behaving like modern Frankensteins? There would be every reason to worry then. No, they will introduce very strict guidelines, so everything will be under control.


And what about cloning? Terrible, a few nutty professors reproducing themselves. Let’s lock them up, otherwise things will get out of hand.


You sound like one of those latter-day Luddites. Put a few of them in charge and we’re back in the Stone Age.

10.2. Other ways of expressing hypothetical meaning

Sections 277–278

There are three less common ways of expressing hypothetical meaning in subclauses:


the were-subjunctive


were to + infinitive


should + infinitive

When the operator occurring in the if-clause is subjunctive were, should or had, the conditional clause can alternatively begin with the operator placed before the subject (= inversion).

Task *

Use the alternative, more formal versions of the following sentences, replacing the if-clause by a clause characterized by inversion.

1.If we had known the true situation at the Coco Reef, we would not have visited the resort last February.

2.If this were to be true, no one is quite sure what effects it would have.

3.If you should have any health care related questions, please call or visit your physician.

4.If we had realized Brian was cheating on us, we would have distanced ourselves from him.

5.I would be amazed if such an incident were ever to happen again.

6.If this man had been assisted just a little, he might have become a useful citizen.

7.If this should not be satisfactory, a second investigation will be conducted.

8.If they were ever to build another town they would probably profit from past experiences.

9.The proceeds from the book will cover the legal fees, if anything should go wrong.

10.If a solution were to be provided the problem would cease to be philosophic.

11.If the women had been given any real choice, their babies would never have been taken from them.

12.Millions of lives could be saved if someone were to find a cure for cancer.

10.3. Condition and contrast

Sections 213–214; 368

The idea of condition can be combined with that of implied contrast (even if) or with that of contrasting alternatives (whether … or, whatever, no matter what, etc.).

Task ***

Combine the following pairs of sentences, linking them in one or more of the above ways.


Almost anything may happen. The few remaining aid workers will stay away.

Whatever (or: No matter what) may happen, the few remaining aid workers will stay away.

1.This pup will win your heart. You don’t like dogs, however.

2.Your panoramic view of the lake is breathtaking. It does not matter when you choose to come.

3.Your home is only temporary. Still, you can decorate with style.

4.You may have good credit or a past history of credit problems. Our experts will help you every step of the way.

5.Every child has a legal right to financial support. Children of divorced parents have this right, too.

6.You may be far away. I will always love you, though.

7.We don’t know where you are travelling. Still, you’ll find a familiar place where you can relax.

8.You may or may not be advanced. Anyway, there’s one more trick for you to consider.

9.People are saying so many things. Just do your own thing.

10.I know you are not an art lover. Still, I think this collection is something for you.

11.You are going to have fun. You may or may not like it.

12.The US appeals court has made the right ruling. Admittedly, this ruling may be difficult to enforce.