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Present Real Conditionals

Present Real/Factual Future Real/Factual
Present Unreal Past Unreal
Present Real Conditionals

The basic formula for a present real conditional has the simple present or present continuous tense in each clause as can be seen in the diagram below.

Present Real Conditionals tend to be commonly used for three different tasks:
  • describe a habit
  • express common knowledge - [something everyone knows and agrees to be true]
  • express a possibility -[different formula]
   The example below describes one of Tom's habits...

    If Tom wakes up late, he yells at his alarm clock.

   ...while the following example expresses a piece of common knowledge...

    If Tom touches a hot stove, he burns his hand.

This is something everyone knows and agrees on, making this particular use for a present real conditional somewhat obvious or unnecessary.

The use of a present real conditional to express a possibility requires a variation in the basic formula:

    For example,...

    If Tom asks Jessica out, she might say yes.


    If Jessica goes out with Tom, they can go to McBurger.

Note: Crosses between types exist that don't follow the normal formulas. These usually involve the verb like or a synonym as can be seen in the sentences below...

    If Jessica would like an extra burger, Tom can buy one for her.


    If you would prefer to eat at Bug King, we can go there instead.

*A special case also occurs with can and expresses a possibility/habit.

    If Tom can go to McBurger, he does.

   ...**Sometimes students get confused by this pattern and will omit the object in every independent clause...

    If Tom can buy a burger, he buys.

...when it should be...     If Tom can buy a burger, he buys one.

It's helpful at this point to remind them that some verbs (like buy) must have a direct object.

Up Next... Future Real Conditionals


page last modified: June 22, 2014

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