Grammar. 11.06.2010
Grammar Teacher

Англійська граматика: Unreal Conditional

Автор: Grammar Teacher

First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.
Napoleon Hill

           Do you consider yourself to be in touch with reality? Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling? Finally, how do we know that the sky is not green and we are all colour-blind? As you see, reality (whatever it is) always leaves a lot to imagination. 
           Let us read a piece of Lewis Carroll’s story:



"I can't believe that!" said Alice.
"Can't you?" the queen said in a pitying tone. "Try again, draw a long breath, and  shut your eyes."
Alice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven't had much practice,"
said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."


                Shall I teach you how to dream? Oh no, that’s definitely a personal science of everyone. But there’s something else I want to tell you about and the topic is called UNREAL CONDITIONAL. There are two types of UNREAL CONDITIONAL sentences – The Second Conditional and The Third Conditional. They are called UNREAL because in these constructions the 'if' clause expresses a condition (present, future or past) which is not true and can’t be possible in real life. 
        The Second Conditional refers to an unreal (or very unlikely) situation in the PRESENT or FUTURE time. That is what we can only imagine. The most confusing thing about the second conditional is that we use the PAST TENSE in the 'if' clause, even though we are referring to the PRESENT or FUTURE!
        I am very busy (and very broke) writing this post now. As I am sitting here in front of my computer, I am thinking about taking a trip to Malaysia (that has been my dream for the last half a year). It would be really nice to go to the airport and get on a plane right now. However, this is completely impossible! I can express this by saying:





If I had enough money… (but I don’t have)
If I didn’t have to work … (but I have to) 
If I could fly… (but that will never happen)
I would travel to Malaysia.





            The structure of the Second Conditional sentences is:



If clause The result clause

if + subject + simple past verb
subject + would + verb

               There is one other rule you should be aware of. (You will hear native speakers break this rule, but you should use it especially in formal speech and formal writing.) If the main verb in the "if" clause is "be," we use "WERE" with ALL subjects, including first and third person singular. Consider the following examples:

• "If Napoleon were alive today, he would be fighting a war." (UNREAL: Napoleon is dead.)
• "If my brother were here, he would buy me a beer." (UNREAL: My brother is in Costa Rica.) 

         However, in everyday conversation, "was" is often used. As well as ‘would’ may be contracted to 'd:

• She’ d marry Ram if he was rich.

         The expression “If I were you” is mainly used to give advice:

 If I were you, I'd look for a new place to live.
• If I were you, I'd go back to school and get more qualifications
         Sometimes, we use could or might instead of would to make the situation in the result clause less certain.   • If I had the chance to do it again, I would do it differently. (that’s for sure)
• If we met up for lunch, we could go to that new restaurant. (or to any other place)
• If I spoke to him directly, I might persuade him. (but I’m not certain)

There’s a nice song 'If I were a carpenter' by Johnny and June Cash containing a lot of The Second Conditional sentences. It starts:

Johnny Cash: If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady,
Would you marry me anyway?
Would you have my baby?

June Carter: If you were a carpenter,
And I were a lady,
I'd marry you anyway.
I'd have your baby."

The Third Conditional refers to an unreal situation in the PAST. In other words, it refers to something that did NOT happen in the past, though maybe it was one of the options. The conditions in The 3rd Conditional are impossible because they are in the past and we cannot change what has happened. The third conditional is also like a dream, but with no possibility of the dream coming true.
My mother is very thin-skinned and it’s very easy to hurt her. I know this and still often rudely talk to her. Last night we had a serious argument. I sad something really offensive and she started crying. 

I WOULDN’T HAVE SAID those words if I HAD KNOWN they would make her cry. 

          I really regret offending her, but I can’t change it, because what’s past is past. So the condition was not true, and that particular condition can never be true because it is finished. We use the Past Perfect tense to talk about the impossible past condition. We use WOULD HAVE + Past Participle to talk about the impossible past result. The important thing about the third conditional is that both the condition and result are impossible now.




If clause The result clause

if + subject + Past Perfect
subject + would  have + Past Participle


      Study these examples:

IF I had had time I would have gone to see him - but I didn't have time
IF we had caught the earlier train we would have got there on time - but we were late


         Notice that the main clause can contain 'would', 'could' or 'might’:

1) If I had seen him at the meeting, I would have asked him. (But he wasn't there so I didn't.)
2) If I had seen him at the meeting, I could have asked him. ( But he wasn't there so it wasn't possible.)
3) If I had seen him at the meeting, I might have asked him. (But I'm not sure. Perhaps if the opportunity had arisen.)

Homer Simpson once said: “If God had wanted us to be vegetarians, he wouldn’t have made animals out of meat.”




Умовні речення 2 і 3 типу являють деяку складність для вивчаючих англійську мову, оскільки в українській мові умовний спосіб має лише одну граматичну форму яка не показує, до якого часу відноситься дане висловлювання. Нам на допомогу приходять такі слова, як вчора, зараз, завтра. В англійській мові сама граматична форма умовного способу без додаткових лексичних засобів (yesterday, now, tomorrow) показує, до якого часу відноситься висловлювання. Наприклад, переклад двох наступних речень на українську звучить однаково:
If I talked to her, she would forgive me.
If I had talked to her, she would have forgiven me.

Щоб навчитися відрізняти ці 2 граматичні конструкції, вам слід завжди пам’ятати про дві речі:
1) The Second Conditional стосується теперішнього і майбутнього, в той час як The Third Conditional – лише минулого часу.
2) В той час, як умова описана в The Second Conditional є уявною, але все ж можливою (you can earn money, you can find time for travelling), The Third Conditional описує умову, яка є просто неможливою для виконання, оскільки минуле не підлягає поверненню.




           Now as you are informed enough I want to propose you a couple of creative tasks.

Task 1.  Just answer the question:

Task 2. 
Do you believe in fate? Are things pre-determined to happen? Or is it all just coincidence? The following scene from the movie ‘The curious case of Benjamin Button’ puts across an important message. Daisy, who devoted her life into dancing, was hit by a taxi. But if only one thing at that time had happened differently the end of Daisy’s afternoon would have been another one. Watch the scene and write as many sentences using The Third Conditional as you can hear.

Ми розглянули правила та приклади використання Unreal Conditional в англійській мові. Щоб дізнатися більше про англійську граматику, читайте інші публікації в розділі Grammar!

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