Thursday, 18 August 2016

Conditional..A look at whether to use If I was or were...





Conditional Forms

Conditional forms are used to imagine events in certain conditions. The conditional can be used to speak about real events that always happen (first conditional), imaginary events (second conditional), or imagined past events (third conditional). Conditional sentences are also known as 'if' sentences. Here are some examples:
If we finish early, we will go out for lunch. - First conditional - possible situation
If we had time, we would visit our friends. - Second conditional - imaginary situation
If we had gone to New York, we would have visited the exhibit. - Third conditional - past imagined situation
English learners should study conditional forms to speak about past, present and future situations that depend on other events happening. There are four forms of the conditional in English. Students should study each of the forms to understand how to use conditionals to speak about:
  • Something that is always true if something happens - conditional zero
  • Something that will be true in the future if something happens - conditional one or real conditional
  • Something that would be true if something happened in the present - conditional two or unreal conditional
  • Something that would have been true in the past if something had happened - conditional three or unreal conditional
At times it might be difficult to make the choice between the first and second (real or unreal) conditional form. You can study this guide or from various other sites to the first or second conditional for more information on making the proper choice between these two forms. Once you have studied conditional structures, practice your understanding.
Listed below are examples, uses and formation of Conditionals followed by a quiz.
Conditional 0
Situations that are always true if something happens.
NOTE
This use is similar to, and can usually be replaced by, a time clause using 'when' (example: When I am late, my father takes me to school.)
If I am late, my father takes me to school.
She doesn't worry if Jack stays out after school.
Conditional 0 is formed by the use of the present simple in the if clause followed by a comma the present simple in the result clause. You can also put the result clause first without using a comma between the clauses.
If he comes to town, we have dinner.
OR
We have dinner if he comes to town.
Conditional 1
Often called the "real" conditional because it is used for real - or possible - situations. These situations take place if a certain condition is met.
NOTE
In the conditional 1 we often use unless which means 'if ... not'. In other words, '...unless he hurries up.' could also be written, '...if he doesn't hurry up.'.
If it rains, we will stay at home.
He will arrive late unless he hurries up.
Peter will buy a new car, if he gets his raise.
Conditional 1 is formed by the use of the present simple in the if clause followed by a comma will verb (base form) in the result clause. You can also put the result clause first without using a comma between the clauses.
If he finishes on time, we will go to the movies.
OR
We will go to the movies if he finishes on time.
Conditional 2
Often called the "unreal" conditional because it is used for unreal - impossible or improbable - situations. This conditional provides an imaginary result for a given situation.
NOTE
The verb 'to be', when used in the 2nd conditional, is always conjugated as 'were'.
If he studied more, he would pass the exam.
I would lower taxes if I were the President.
They would buy a new house if they had more money.
Conditional 2 is formed by the use of the past simple in the if clause followed by a comma would verb (base form) in the result clause. You can also put the result clause first without using a comma between the clauses.
If they had more money, they would buy a new house.
OR
They would buy a new house if they had more money.
Conditional 3
Often referred to as the "past" conditional because it concerns only past situations with hypothetical results. Used to express a hypothetical result to a past given situation.
If he had known that, he would have decided differently.
Jane would have found a new job if she had stayed in Boston.
Conditional 3 is formed by the use of the past perfect in the if clause followed by a comma would have past participle in the result clause. You can also put the result clause first without using a comma between the clauses.
If Alice had won the competition, life would have changed OR Life would have changed if Alice had won the competition.



If I was or If I were?

A common question is whether 'If I was ...' or 'If I were ...' is correct. The answer is that they are both correct, but in different contexts.
If I were = Imaginary
If I were is used to express an imaginary situation in the present.
If I were you, I would take a vacation.
I would give the test again if I were the teacher. 
If I was = when I was
If I was is used to express something that was true when or if something else happened.
If I was late for class, I got into trouble.
I had to do extra homework, If I was absent.

Unreal / Second Conditional

The second conditional, or unreal conditional is formed in the following manner:
If + Subject + Simple Past + Objects, Subject + Would + Verb + Objects
If I had more time, I would take up a new hobby.
If Jane moved to New York, she would get an apartment in Brooklyn.
Remember that it is also possible to end the sentence with an 'if' clause. In that case, do not use a comma to separate the two clauses.
Subject + Would + Verb + Objects If + Subject + Simple Past + Objects
The school would hire more teachers if the district voted for a tax increase.
The economy would improve if the people paid less for health insurance.

 Verb 'Be' - Unreal / Second Conditional

In the case of the verb 'be', the unreal conditional takes the conjunctive form of the verb 'were' for all subjects. In other words, in the 2nd conditional use 'were' for I, he, she, and it, as well as other subjects.
If Susan were the director, she would invest in new marketing strategies.
I would invest in the stock market if I were a rich man.
The conjugation of the verb 'be' as 'were' indicates that these are imaginary situations.

Reality Check

You may have often heard people use 'If I was ...' in the same sense. The fact is that native speakers use the incorrect form so frequently that it is becoming standard usage. It's interesting to note that Cambridge University accepts 'If I was ...' for the unreal conditional on their English learning test series whereas ETS (English Testing Service) does not. This is a case of descriptive grammar (how the language is used) winning out over prescriptive grammar (how the language should be used). It certainly causes many headaches for English learners!

Past Conditional: If = When

There is a case in which 'If I was ...' (or 'If she / he / it was...') is correct. This form is used to indicate an action that occurred in the past if a given situation arose. In this case, the meaning is similar to 'when'. Notice how this usage refers to a past situation that was true in a specific circumstance, rather than referring to an imaginary situation in the present.
If + Subject + Simple Past + Objects, Subject + Simple Past + Objects
OR
Subject + Simple Past + Objects If + Subject + Simple Past + Objects
I was always in a rush when I was young. If I was in a hurry, I usually forgot my lunch.
She visited Tom if she was in New York when she lived in the United States.
When I was in a hurry, I always forgot my lunch.
Jennifer used to live in the United States. She visited Tom if she was in New York.
In this case, 'if' is acting as a time clause to discuss what happened in a certain situation. Compare this usage to the first conditional, which can use the simple present in both clauses.
If he comes to town, we go out for lunch. = When he comes to town, we go out for lunch.
If I was available, we spent some time chatting. = When I was available (in the past), we spent some time chatting.
To improve your understanding of conditionals, practice the first and second conditional forms in class.