Conditionals: “When” & “If”

   

 
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Filter by Categories
General English
Grammar
Topic Progress:

Welcome to your Conditionals: “When” & “If” lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• When do we use conditionals?
Using the Present Perfect
The Present Simple for the future
“When” and “If”
Take the quizzes when you’re ready! If you’re having problems, use the comment box to contact our English Teachers.

When do we use conditionals?

Have a look at this example:

James: “Will you text me later?”

Sarah: “Yes, I‘ll text you when I get home.”

Sarah used a conditional sentence. Conditional sentences are made up of two clauses:

Main clause
“I’ll text you…”

If clause
“…when I get home.”

She said “when I get…” which is the Present Simple, but it’s meaning is the future. “Will” is never used in the if clause. Here are some more examples:

“I’ll fix the car when I save up enough money.”

“When I’m in town next, I’ll come and visit you.”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Notice that the main clause and the if clause can be used in either order:

If clause, main clause
When I’m in town next, I’ll come and visit you.”

Main clause if clause
I’ll come and visit you when I’m in town next.

You can also used conditional sentences with these words: “after”, “as soon as”, “until”, “when”:

“Wait in the car until I get back.”

Before I leave the island I’d love to visit the volcano.”

As soon as he gets back, we’ll go shopping.”

Using the Present Perfect

The Present Perfect can also be used with conditional sentences:

“You can read the paper when I‘ve finished with it.”

“Wait until he‘s gone before talking about him!”

When you use the Present Perfect, one clause must be complete before the other one starts. The two clauses cannot happen at the same time.

“When I‘ve texted James we can have dinner.”
(First I’ll text James, then we’ll have dinner)

The Present Perfect is not used when the two things happen at the same time:

“When I text James I’ll say hello from you.”
(The two things will happen at the same time)

Sometimes, the Present Perfect and the Present Simple are interchangeable:

 Conditional + Present Simple Conditional + Present Perfect

“I’ll call her as soon as I finish work.”

“I’ll call her as soon as I‘ve finished work.”

“You’ll feel more relaxed after you take off your shoes.”

“You’ll feel more relaxed after you‘ve taken off your shoes.”

The Present Simple for the future

As stated before, the if clause can be used with the Present Simple and its meaning is the future:

“If you come tomorrow, bring an umbrella.”
(not “If you will come...”)

“When you see Bob, tell him to call me.”
(not “When you will see...”)

“When” and “If”

“When” is used for things that you are sure will happen:

When you come tomorrow, bring an umbrella.”
(It’s sure that you will come)

When you see Bob, tell him to call me.”
(It’s sure that you will see Bob)

“If” is used for things that you are not sure will happen:

If you come tomorrow, bring an umbrella.”
(It’s not sure that you will come)

If you see Bob, tell him to call me.”
(It’s not sure that you will see Bob)

Recap

  • Conditional sentences are made up of two clauses: The main clause and the if clause. They can be used in any order.
  • When you use the Present Perfect, one clause must be complete before the other one starts.
  • “When” is used for things that you are sure will happen.
  • “If” is used for things that you are not sure will happen.