Conditionals

We sometimes make complex sentences in which one clause is an unreal cause and the other clause is the result. These are called Conditionals. There are different types of Conditionals, based mostly on verb tenses, but Insights’s method bypasses the different types and considers instead how conditionals work as a whole. (The Zero Conditional does not express an unreal verb phrase, but it has no specific instance either.)

What to Expect

It’s standard for the different types of Conditionals to be taught one at a time. But as students learn additional types, it can be difficult to keep all of them straight. Thankfully, there’s a pattern to them all. If you know the pattern, you don’t need to remember which type of conditional is which.

The video starts by outlining the details for each type of conditional, then works on finding the commonalities. Things get gradually simpler as it goes along. All students really need to remember is the table at the very end of the video.

Prerequisites

Learners should already be familiar with the following:

Unreal Situations, which may be hypothetical or imaginary. They can also be possible situations that haven’t occurred yet or possibilities that we haven’t yet confirmed. These are often expressed with modals verbs and include future tenses.

Verb Tenses, primarily Past Simple vs. Present Simple vs. Future Simple. Students should also be familiar with perfect tenses; the Past Perfect tense is featured in the video, but if learners at least know Present Perfect, you as the teacher can fill in the rest for them.

Students should know what Modal Verbs are and what each is used for. It also helps to know which ones are related:

would ← will     could ← can     should ← shall     might ← may

Clauses are sets of properly-ordered words which include or are connected to a subject and a verb phrase that are in agreement with one another.

Check out the Intro to Clauses topic page.

Proficiency Level

Students are expected to know at least 1st Conditional at the A2 level, other conditionals at the B1 level, and mixed conditionals at the B2 level. Students probably start learning Conditionals in the Pre-Intermediate level (or 3rd out of 6).* Insights recommends teaching this method as multiple types of conditionals are introduced.

*actual starting level varies from one course-book series to the next

All Conditionals

REAL UNREAL
LINKER
if/unless
when
if/unless
CONDITION CLAUSE
backshifted verb
RESULT CLAUSE
verb
modal + verb

Bonus Notes


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Printouts & Slideshows

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Adverbial Clauses

Condition Clauses are a subset of Adverbial Clauses. Learn more out Adverbial Clauses and some of their other types.
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Backshifting

A key feature of Conditional sentences is that the Condition Clause is 'Backshifted'.
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