Today a short review on conditionals, something which my Intermediate class have found difficult recently:
“If I ever met Petra Kvitová, I’d definitely ask her about how she prepared for Wimbledon this year.”
“If I meet Petra Kvitová, I’ll try not to talk about the match.”
Which of the above sentences are you more likely to say and which is something that Maria Sharapova might say?
Do you notice that each sentence has a different structure? How so?
Maria Sharapova, who lost to Petra Kvitova, might joke to the media:
“I wasn’t really happy with my performance. I know I can do better. If I meet Petra Kvitová anytime soon, I’ll try not to talk about the match!”
In this sentence, because Maria is a professional tennis player and because she played against Kvitová, she sees this as a real situation. She sees this as part of her reality.
Compare this to the second sentence:
In a conversation you might be talking to a friend about this year’s women’s Wimbledon final:
“I’m a big tennis fan, and every year I rush home early just to watch Wimbledon on TV… Wow, Petra Kvitová played so well. If I met her, I’d definitely ask her about how she trained for Wimbledon this year.”
In this short dialogue you see this situation as not being a real possibilty.
Perhaps you’re having a drink in a cafe and you see this situation as being unreal:
You’re just imagining a situation which you don’t see as being part of your reality.
Please note that we use a past tense form in this ‘unreal conditional’ but we are not referring to the past.
We are in fact referring to NOW or the FUTURE. And we are using a verb in a past tense because it is a way in English to communicate ‘distance from reality’.
Let’s say you have to work all next week while your colleagues are away on holiday. But imagine if you had the week off, where would you go?
Maybe you’d go to Italy. [= maybe you would go to Italy if you had the week off work]
Note here you can use a variety of modal verbs to express what you would do:
If I had next week off, I could visit friends in Moravia.
I should clean up my flat.
I definitely wouldn’t go to the mountains.
I’d have to visit relatives in Litvinov.
I’d go to the beach in a flash.
Now here’s a question for you to answer in the comments section below. Write one paragraph on the following topic:
What would you do if you had a million dollars?
david [at] GetIntoEnglish [dot] com