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Real Conditionals vs. Unreal Conditionals

Both real and unreal conditionals have 2 parts – a condition and a result.

We use real conditionals for things that are true or could be true or could happen.
  • If it rains, then I will stay home.
  • If you are nice to him, he will be nice to you.
  • You can get a promotion if you work hard.
We use unreal conditionals for things that are not true or real
  • If I were a dog, I would sleep all day.
  • If she had more money, she would probably buy a new car.
We also use unreal conditionals for things that are very unlikely to be true or things that will almost definitely not happen.
  • They would move to Canada if they won the lottery.
  • If I met Brad Pitt, I would ask him for an autograph.
Sometimes, we can use either real or unreal conditionals. This is possible when we are not sure if a condition is likely or unlikely. The two sentences below basically have the same meaning.
  • If my computer breaks, then I will buy a new one.
  • If my computer broke, then I would buy a new one.
Compare a real conditional to an unreal conditional.

Real Conditional: If the car is cheap, then I will buy it.

I don't know if the car is cheap, but if it is, then I will buy it. It is possible that it is cheap.

Unreal Conditional: If the car were cheap, then I would buy it.

Really, the car is not cheap. I know that the car is not cheap. I am just imagining what I would do if it were cheap.

Take a look at how the feeling of a sentence can change between real and unreal conditionals and the word we use to give the condition.

Real Conditional: If I get a promotion, I will be happy.

This sentence gives the feeling that I am not sure if I will get a promotion, but it is possible.

Real Conditional: When I get a promotion, I will be happy.

This sentence gives the feeling that I am sure that I will get a promotion and I am just waiting for it to happy. "When" gives the feeling that there is a 100% chance that something will happen. It is just a matter of when it will happen.

Real Conditional: If I got a promotion, I would be happy.

This sentence gives the feeling that the chance of getting a promotion is very low. I think I will not get a promotion. A sentence like this is kind of like a wish or hope.

Learn to speak better English and improve your English grammar by simply doing this basic practice exercise. First, complete the sentences with your own answers, and then practice making your own sentences. Finally, try using this grammar in real life.

If it rains tomorrow, I will _______________.
If I met the leader of my country, I would _______________.
If I won the lottery, I would _______________.
I would _______________ if I have time tomorrow.
If I had more time today, I would _______________.
If the weather is nice this weekend, I will _______________.
If I were an animal, I would be _______________.
If I could fly, I would _______________.
If she were a student again, she would _______________.
If I could go back in time 10 years, I would _______________.
When my English improves, I will _______________.
When I have time, I will _______________.
When I have some time off of work, I will _______________.

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