16. Conditionals 2: The 5 Classics

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Conditionals 2: The 5 Classic Conditionals
In textbooks all over the world there are "5 Conditionals" that are taught.
And they are incorrectly presented as being the only conditionals in English.
In the next part we will have a look at the various types of conditionals that really exist, but
for now let's look at these 5 most common conditionals...

In the last part we established the idea that the "MOST TYPICAL" structures of Conditionals would be the following:

A (PAST) ------> B (PAST = Effect NOW), with a Probability of 0%
A (PAST) ------> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of 0%
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of less than 50%.
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of more than 50%.
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of 100%.

And in grammar sections all over the world, these 5 condionals are always listed:
Zero Conditional: If the book is late, you pay a fine.
First Conditional: If I am late, the teacher will be angry.
Second Conditional: If I were you, I wouldn't be late tomorrow!
Third Conditional: If I had been late yesterday, the teacher would have been angry.
Mixed Conditional: If I had been late yesterday, I would have extra homework this evening.

Can you find any similarities between the two lists?
Do any of them match?

It seems there is a good match for all!

Zero Conditional: If the book is late, you pay a fine.
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of 100%.

First Conditional: If I am late, the teacher will be angry.
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of more than 50%.

Second Conditional: If I were you, I wouldn't be late tomorrow!
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of less than 50%.

Third Conditional: If I had been late yesterday, the teacher would have been angry.
A (PAST) ------> B (PAST = Effect NOW), with a Probability of 0%

Mixed Conditional: If I had been late yesterday, I would have extra homework this evening.
A (PAST) ------> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of 0%

Very interesting!

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So the question becomes, how do we move from those 5 'typical' scenarios to those 5 grammatical structures?
And the answer is....

...DISTANCE!!!!!!

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I said previously that the conditional structures do not create grammar, they just...

...use it to communicate the relevant message.

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So let's go through these 5 conditionals one by one, and create them from scratch.

Which 2 parts of 3 TYPES OF DISTANCES would be most useful with Conditionals?

I think:
TIME and PROBABILITY.
FORMALITY can be considered too, but perhaps they are an example of non-Textbook thinking...
(so see next Part 17)
For example:
If you could come, that would be great! (FORMAL)
If you can come, that'll be great (INFORMAL)

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Let's start by creating the First Conditional:
The scenario was paired with:
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of more than 50%.

How do we feel about "A" in this scenario?
Is "A" FAR in TIME? Or CLOSE in TIME?
Is "A" PROBABLE or IMPROBABLE?

"A" is CLOSE in TIME because it includes the Now/Future perspective,
it is Not Past,
so this is a live condition in our world now and in the future.
And PROBABLE because the whole sentence is PROBABLE,
and that would mean both A and B need to be PROBABLE, REAL.

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So what tense do we use for NOW, REAL and PROBABLE?

The Present.

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Now about B
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of more than 50%.

How do we feel about "B" in this scenario?
Is "B" FAR in TIME? Or CLOSE in TIME?
Is "B" PROBABLE or IMPROBABLE?

B is CLOSE in TIME too because it includes the Now/Future perspective,
and "B" is PROBABLE because the whole sentence is VERY PROBABLE,
however it feels dependant on "A".
It follows on from "A".
And IMPORTANTLY "B" doesn't exist really until "A" happens.
Or in another way, "B" is a prediction, it doesn't have a 100% certainty.
(And this is the difference we will see with the ZERO Condtional in a moment.)

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So what tense do we use for a FUTURE PREDICTION that is POSSIBLE but is our OPINION (not observable data)?

Will.
And you would be correct in thinking that if the prediction was based on OBSERVABLE DATA we would get a different sentence!
"Look at him, if he doesn't slow down, he's going to crash!"

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So for this idea:
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of more than 50%.
What is the Classic Structure of the "First Conditional"?

IF + Present Simple ----> WILL
If you can come to my party, I will be happy.

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And if we compare the FIRST CONDITIONAL's Scenario:
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of more than 50%.
with this one:
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of 100%.
What differences are there?

Well the difference that we want to comunicate is that the whole sentence, the whole scenario,
the CONDTION (if met) and the RESULT clause is 100% CERTAIN.
We want to say the IF and the RESULT are fixed.
That they happen ONE DIRECTLY AFTER THE OTHER, no prediction,
the RESULT exists now in the Future, it is not a Prediction, it is A PLAN!

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And what do we use for FIXED PLANS in the FUTURE?
Remember?

We use the Present Simple.

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So what is the Classic Structure of this:
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of 100%.
The so-called ZERO CONDITIONAL?

IF + Present Simple ----> Present Simple
If the book is late, you pay a fine.

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Its name, the Zero Conditional, is good because...

...this conditional structure is not really hypothetical, it is used for things that already exist, like FACTS now
so of course the whole situation is in the Present Simple.
It is used when referring to Laws, Rules, Relationships in Science etc.

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And so if I want to use the sentence:
"If the book is late, you pay a fine."
But my emphasis is not the RULE BOOK or the IMPERSONAL YOU,
but "You" my friend in front of me, then what might I say?

Well now I am no longer purely describing RULES,
but there are people, and some uncertainty.
And so if there is a chance that YOUR book will NOT be late, I could say;
"If the book is late, you will pay a fine."
Now I am simply describing a POSSIBLE situation and the PREDICTED RESULT.

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The following two sentences:
"If the book is late, you pay a fine."
"If the book is late, you will pay a fine."
describe the same FACTS (the rules of the library) and so
they show again how the use of tenses are not describing reality,
but our relationship to reality, OUR...

...PERSPECTIVE.

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Now let's look at the so called Second Conditional.
The scenario was paired with:
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of LESS than 50%.

How do we feel about "A" in this scenario?
Is "A" FAR in TIME? Or CLOSE in TIME?
Is "A" PROBABLE or IMPROBABLE?

So "A" is CLOSE in TIME because it includes the Now/Future perspective,
it is Not Past,
so this is a live condition in our world now and in the future.
So this would also be the PRESENT... BUT
we want to say the scenario is IMPROBABLE,
and that there is a DISTANCE from our reality.

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And what do we use to express a DISTANCE from the NOW, REAL, PERSONAL?

The PAST.
If I won the lottery tomorrow...
This is not a probable scenario.

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OK, now then, what about "B"?
It's a result of "A", like in the First Conditional,
it happens only because of "A".
And what do we use for "B" in the First Conditional after
IF + PRESENT?

WILL

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But, in the SECOND CONDITIONAL, the IF is in the PAST.
What is WILL in the PAST?
What did we say was a REACTION in the PAST???

WOULD!
(see Part 6, and Part 9)

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So the SECOND CONTIONAL is constructed....

IF + PAST -----> WOULD + VERB
Here we can see how WOULD is indeed without a before and distant from NOW, REAL, and INFORMAL.
The WOULD ACTION would not exist at all without the IF in this context.

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So that concludes the CLASSIC SCHOOL CONDITIONALS for the Now and Future.
The conditionals that are about now and what could happen.
And next we look at HYPOTHETICAL SITUATIONS involving the PAST.
The so called THIRD and MIXED Conditionals.

But first lets have a look at a couple of common questions about the First and Second.
Are both of these possible?
If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would buy a Ferrari.
If I win the lottery tomorrow, I will buy a Ferrari.

If I won... is Classic Second Conditional, there is a DISTANT of REALITY.
And we think that is normal.
BUT OF COURSE TENSES DON'T DESCRIBE REALITY,
They describe PERCEPTION....
So "If I win..." simply describes the OPTIMISM of the speaker,
they want to feel (possibly for fun) that winning the lottery is REALISTIC.
And to communicate this they use the PRESENT.

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So anything is possible?
What about?
"If were you..." becoming "If I am you..."?

Well it is very difficult to make me be you in REALITY....
So this sentence would appear nonsensical....
However... situations can almost always be created!!!
Imagine I am re-enacting a scene with you in it...
Or I am role playing a situation, and my character is you...
Well then I can say...."Ok ok, right, if I am you and you are your boss, then...."
Because now in this scene, I am really you!!

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Ok moving on to the PAST HYPOTHETICALS...
We saw that there are TWO POSSIBILITIES
A (PAST) ------> B (PAST = Effect NOW), with a Probability of 0%
A (PAST) ------> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of 0%

Are the "A"s in these two sentences the same?

Yes.
The effect/result we talk about are different (the "B"s),
but the "A"s are the same.
A HYPOTHETICAL EVENT IN THE PAST.

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So in terms of how we feel about "A" in this scenario?
Is "A" FAR in TIME? Or CLOSE in TIME?
Is "A" PROBABLE or IMPROBABLE?

Well it is FAR in time, so that means we need the PAST.
And in these 5 CLASSIC CONDITIONALS, we are using the idea that
we believe the IF CLAUSE to be UNTRUE...

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And if something is UNTRUE in the PAST,
what is the PROBABILITY of it becoming TRUE (now or in the future)?

ZERO %.
Everything in the future COULD happen, except changing the PAST.
So in the Classic Conditionals, when we talk about the PAST HYPOTHETICALS they are always UNREAL.
So they are DISTANT!
And so they too need a PAST TENSE...

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But....we already use PAST for the Second Conditional...
I mean, how would we know the difference between...
If he went (tomorrow), he would be late.
If he went (yesterday), he...
Because WENT only communicates EITHER Past or Unreal, but NOT...

...BOTH.

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So we need a kind of DOUBLE PAST!
Is there a Double Past in English?

Yes! The PAST PERFECT!!!!
So for HYPOTHETICALS in the PAST as per the CLASSIC CONDITIONALS we say....
If he HAD GONE yesterday....

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So, "If he went yesterday..." is wrong?

WOAH! I never said it is WRONG!
It is certainly NOT the Classic Conditionals but in terms of expressing someone's perception it is possible.
Now "If he went yesterday..." is definitely talking about PAST TIME, so...
this means that the speaker BELIEVES THAT HE DID GO YESTERDAY!
He is indicating this to be REAL and TRUE in the PAST.
This type of situation is just not a consideration with the Classic Conditionals.
This is why the Classic Conditionals are so limiting in the real world!
For example:
If he went to the bank yesterday, then that is why he had money this morning.
But anyway more on the realities of conditionials in Part 17!!

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Ok so we know that the CLASSIC THIRD CONDTIONAL begins....
If he had done X, for "A".
So what about "B" here?
A (PAST) ------> B (PAST = Effect NOW), with a Probability of 0%
We have two ideas to express:
1 - an event in the past with an effect now.
2 - A result of a distant IF.
Any ideas for the tense/structure that we use?

1 = The PERFECT Aspect (see Part 3), that describes when a previous action/thing affects a later point in time.
2 = WOULD - as per the Second Conditional, Would is for a Result in the Distance (Past).
So "WOULD HAVE + Past Participle"
The CONDITIONAL PERFECT.
"If he had studied for the exam, he WOULD HAVE PASSED."
"If I had been born a day later, my unimaginative parents WOULD HAVE CALLED me May not April."

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Moving on to the FIFTH Classic Conditional.
The so called MIXED CONDITIONAL:
A (PAST) ------> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of 0%
MIXED of what?
What TWO Classic Conditionals are in the MIXED CONDITIONAL?

It starts with the THIRD,
A (PAST) ------> B (PAST = Effect NOW), with a Probability of 0%
and ends with the SECOND.
A (NOW/FUTURE) ----> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of less than 50%.
[a probability of 0% is of course less than 50%!] Making:
A (PAST) ------> B (FUTURE), with a Probability of less than 50% [0%]

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So we know that PAST HYPOTHETICALS in the CLASSIC SERIES,
start with THE PAST PERFECT.
And how does the SECOND CONDITIONAL end?

WOULD, a result in the DISTANCE.
The scenario doesn't need the PERFECT because there is no EFFECT from before,
instead the RESULT is NOW / FUTURE:
"If he had studied for the exam, he would have passed and NOW HE WOULD BE HAPPY, and WOULDN"T NEED TO STUDY AGAIN TOMORROW.
"If I had been born a day later, I WOULD STILL BE 17 today, and my birthday WOULD BE tomorrow."

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So that is the explanation for the 5 Classic Conditionals.
But, as I have mentioned, it isn't the reality of how flexible condtional structures can be...

...more in Part 17.

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