Stage 5 Stage 6
This week we will be looking at the different ways we use the words if, whether, supposing and provided. Most students immediately recognize the word if, as it is a fundamental part of forming the conditionals: the Zero, First, Second, and Third conditionals. Before we go any further, let’s refresh our memory and take a quick look at the conditionals.
We use the Zero Conditional to state facts, and also as a way to refer to a consequence of something. The construction is very simple: if + present + present. Let’s see some examples:
- If we throw paper into a fire, it burns.
- If you kill somebody, you go to prison.
We use the First Conditional when we think something is very probable to happen. The construction is: if + present + future simple. For example:
- If I win the lottery, I will buy a new house.
- If we don’t do our homework, we will get in trouble.
We use the Second Conditional when we are only imagining something in the present or future. The construction is: if + past + conditional tense. For example:
- If I had more time, I would be able to finish the project!
- If I went to New York next year, I would visit my brother.
We use the Third Conditional when we are imagining something in the past that did not happen. The construction is: if + past perfect + would have (past participle). For example:
- If I had known the truth, I wouldn’t have gotten so angry at him yesterday!
- If my father hadn’t burned the toast, I would have enjoyed it more.
We can use the word whether instead of if when we want to express a doubt, and when two possible actions have the same result. When we use whether to express a doubt, it is often accompanied by a phrase like “not sure” or “don’t know” or “have no idea” in order to make it clear that there is doubt. Let’s see some examples:
- I don’t know whether he will come or not.
- She’s not sure whether we’ll have enough time.
As mentioned above, whether can also be used when two possible actions have the same result. For example:
- Whether I go to New York or Los Angeles on vacation, I will have a good time!
- We will proceed with the meeting whether he arrives on time or not.
The above examples demonstrate a simple idea: no matter what the conditions are, the end result will be the same (having a good time, and proceeding with the meeting).
Another word we can use in a conditional construction is supposing. We use supposing when we want someone to imagine something is true, or to imagine a particular thing will happen. We can use this word in both the First Conditional and Second Conditional constructions. Let’s see some examples:
- Supposing they get here tomorrow, what will we do?
- Supposing I forgot the number, I would ask my mother to remind me.
Note that when we use supposing, it’s possible to put the word ‘that’ after it, but not necessary.
We can also use the word provided to express a conditional idea. It means ‘on the condition that.’ Another way to say this is ‘if (something) happens.’ Just like supposing, it’s also possible to put the word ‘that’ after it, but it isn’t necessary. For example:
- I would be very worried, provided that were the case.
- Provided they have the necessary requirements, I see no reason why we shouldn’t hire them.
Try the exercises to practice what you’ve learned!
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