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In conditional sentences, we speak hypothetically.
We talk about what would happen as a consequence (or result) of some hypothetical condition.
Therefore, every conditional sentence has two parts:  the CONDITION and the CONSEQUENCE.
In addition, there are three different kinds of conditional sentences.
The first two kinds (we call them "conditional one" and "conditional two") deal with thefuture or the present.
The difference between the two is based upon probability.
The last kind ("conditional three") deals only with the past.
Let's look more closely at each kind.

Conditional One |
 In this kind of sentence, we are discussing a hypothetical situation. The chances of that situation either being true now or becoming true later are relatively good. In any case, we do NOT knowfor certain if it is true or if it will become true. (If we know for certain that something is true or will become true, then we are not speaking hypothetically!)
If "A" HAPPENS (in the future),
If "A" IS HAPPENING (now),
If "A" IS (general fact), | "B" WILL HAPPEN as a result.
"B" WILL HAPPEN as a result.
"B" WILL HAPPEN as a result. |
Notice that theverb in the conditional part of the sentence (called "the conditional clause"), is in the PRESENT tense even when we are talking about something that might happen in the FUTURE!  (This is similar to what was said in the section on the future tense and its time signals.)
Notice also that the verb in the rest of the sentence (called "the main clause") is always in the FUTURE because a consequenceis always something that happens later, after a condition is met.
Here are some examples:
If I SELL my boat (in the future), | I WILL TAKE you to dinner. |
If it IS SNOWING (right now),  | I WILL DRIVE you home. |
If I AM wrong (general fact),    | I WILL BUY you a beer. |
The main point here is that the speaker thinks that the chances of the condition being or becoming true are relativelygood.
This, of course, is a subjective opinion.
Other speakers may see the chances as relatively bad. If so, then they would choose Conditional Two.

Conditional Two |
In this kind of conditional sentence, we are still discussing a hypothetical situation. But now the chances of the situation either being true now or becoming true later are not good or are zero.
If "A" HAPPENED (in the future),
If "A" WERE the case (general fact),  | "B" WOULD HAPPEN as a result.
"B" WOULD HAPPEN as a result. |
Notice that now the verb in the conditional clause is in the PAST tense!
In fact, however, it is not really the past tense.
The subjunctive is used to voice such hypothetical situations.
InEnglish, it looks and sounds exactly the same as the past tense, which makes it easy to learn!
But do not think it has anything to do with the past.
One last word about the subjunctive: It is actually correct to use were with ALL SUBJECTS.
Nevertheless, many native speakers (not only Americans!) mistakenly use "was" with "I", "he", "she", and "it" in conditional two sentences.
The verb in the mainclause is always with the word"would".
This expresses again the conditional nature of the idea.
A pitfall (or trap) that many people (including native speakers!) fall into is to use the word "would" in BOTH parts of the sentence.
You may hear this often, but it is wrong.
Here are some examples:
If I SOLD my boat (in the future), ...  I WOULD TAKE you to dinner.
If I LIVED  in Japan (generalfact), ... I WOULD EAT Sushi often.
If I WERE you (impossible), ... I WOULD ASK an expert.
If it WERE SNOWING (at this moment), ... I WOULD DRIVE you home.
If he WERE more reliable, ... I WOULD WORK with him.
If they WENT out more often, ... they WOULD HAVE more fun.
If I RECEIVED an offer from them, ... I WOULD FALL over from shock.
If he CHANGED his strategy, ... his position WOULD...
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