Using Conditionals in IELTS


Understanding conditional statements in listening and reading and creating these in the speaking and writing sections of the IELTS exam is very important for high band scores 6 to 9. This is because there are many cases in the real-world where certain actions happen (or do not happen) within a given circumstance (or in the absence of a circumstance).

Conditionals are a type of complex sentence using subordinating conjunctions. This blog explains the what conditional grammar is, why it is used, and how it is applied in the English language.

Here is an example of a complex conditional sentence to help you understand further.

If I had time, I would study IELTS – here you have the subordinate clause (also called the dependent clause) If I had time, -> this cannot be a sentence on its own because it is incomplete and incoherent. So, we need to add the main clause (also called the independent clause). I would study IELTS -> this could be a sentence on its own without the condition. The subordinating conjunction used in this sentence is “If” which denotes the condition. There are many different subordinating conjunctions of a condition like, if, when, provided that, given that, etc. *Make sure to choose the best one! (“when” is best used for real conditions as it is exclusively used in real cases only.)

Although some articles explain conditionals in terms of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, conditionals, this is often subjective, unclear and ambiguous.

Take a look at the following examples which better explains the grammar and use of conditionals:

Present Real ConditionalPresent Unreal Conditional
When I have time, I study IELTS.
Sometimes I have time.
If I had time, I would study IELTS.
I don't have time.
Past Real ConditionalPast Unreal Conditional
When I had time, I studied IELTS.
Sometimes I had time.
If I had had time, I would have studied IELTS.
I didn't have time.
Future Real ConditionalFuture Unreal Conditional
When I have time, I will study IELTS.
When I have time, I am going to study English.
I don't know if I will have time or not.
If I had time, I would study IELTS.
I won't have time.

Notice that every time the condition changes from ‘real’ to ‘unreal’ the tense of the verbs moves back in time by one frame. In these cases, you should think of the word ‘would’ as the past form of the word ‘will’.

Try some examples on your own and share it in a reply; we will let you know if you are on the right track or not.

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