9 Conditional clauses


9.1 English conditional clauses
Conditional clauses describe events that only happen, IF a certain condition is fulfilled.

If I had more money, I would be happy.
If only she had passed the exam, her parents would not have been so upset.
If he does not go to school, he will be in deep trouble.

You see there are different types of views toward the event that happens under a condition. To be precise there are three types of conditional clauses in English:

Realis of the present
  This type is used, when there is a good probability that the condition is (going to be) fulfilled and the event is likely to happen.
If he does not go to school, he will be in deep trouble.

Irrealis of the present
  This type is used, when there is only little (or no) chance that the condition is going to be fulfilled and the event is not likely to happen.
If I had wings, I would fly to you.

Irrealis of the past
  This type is used when the view on things is backwards and things cannot be realised anymore.
If I had known about the accident, I would have gone immediately to the hospital.

In English we have a normal indicative in present tense for the Realis of the present. For both Irrealis-forms there is a certain structure in the sentences:

Irrealis of the present
  The sentence with the condition, has the conjunctive II (which is in fact identical to the simple past with one exception); the following sentences uses the conditional I (with modal verbs).
If I had wings, I would fly to you.
Irrealis of the past
  The sentence with the condition, has the past perfect ; the following sentences uses the conditional II (with modal verbs).
If I had known about the accident, I would have gone immediately to the hospital.

An interesting detal: A conditional clause is only used, if the on the fulfillment of the condition automatically the event happens. If there is a condition, with a consequence that does not necessarily follow, we do not have a conditional clause as you can see with the quote of Nietzsche.

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.

Not everyone, who has chaos in his soul, can give birth to a dancing star. But, if you want to give birth to a dancing star, one thing is sure, you need (among others) chaos in your soul.

However, let's get back to the grammar part and our conditional clauses in French.






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