How do the tens­es and as­pects in English cor­re­spond tem­po­ral­ly to one an­oth­er?

Non-na­tive speak­ers of­ten get con­fused about what the var­i­ous tens­es and as­pects mean in English. With in­put from some of the folk here I’ve put to­geth­er a di­a­gram that I hope will pro­vide some clar­i­ty on the mat­ter. I of­fer it as the first an­swer to this ques­tion. Con­sid­er it a liv­ing doc­u­ment. In­put is … Read more

Is the conditional a mood or a tense?

Is the conditional a mood or a tense? I’ve heard it described in both ways. It seems more like a mood as it is often lumped with hypothetical constructions and the subjunctive mood. I could see it too as being a kind of nuance of the future though, as the conditional often implies something that … Read more

“won’t” vs. “wouldn’t”

Are these two words interchangeable? How do you know when to use one or the other? For some sentences it is easy to know which one to use, but not for others. The type of sentences that are difficult are those that begin with “if” or “should.” Here’s some example sentences: Should you ever break … Read more

Speculative conditional: Why does it use the past tense or past perfect tense?

We use simple past to state a hypothetical present situation that we would like to speculate about (If they were here, I would be happy), past perfect for a hypothetical past (had they been here, I would have been happy), and simple present to a hypothetical future. Any explanation why this makes sense, as opposed … Read more

How to correctly write this conditional phrase?

I’m struggling with a conditional clause. This one is easy: If I were you, I would do xyz … But I have these three statements: I was a student. It was my vacation. My professor gave me this assignment. Now, I want to turn these three into conditional clauses: If I were a student, and … Read more

“Will have” vs. “Would have”

By the end of the year, I would have attended this school for five years. Of course, the “most” correct way of writing this would be: By the end of the year, I will have attended this school for five years. …but I was just wondering. Answer The two sentences mean slightly different things. In … Read more

Comma in conditional sentence and in antithesis

I’ve got a couple questions: Should I always put comma between condition and consequence parts, like in the following sentence: If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Should I always put comma in the sentences similar to the following (I may be wrong, but I think it’s called antithesis): It rains, but children … Read more

When should I use “Would”, “Would have”, “Will”, and “Will have”?

I hope someone, once and for all, can clarify (with examples) the difference in usage of will vs. would vs. would have vs. will have. Answer This question is quite broad, and I find it quite hard to come up with an answer that is comprehensive yet succinct, technically impeccable yet easy to understand. At … Read more

Conditional sentences not starting with “if”

Were I rich, I would live on Long Island. If I were rich, I would live on Long Island. Is the first sentence still used, or is used in particular contexts (in example, to give emphasis to the sentence)? Answer It’s rarely used nowadays (in the US at least). It will usually come off as … Read more

When to use “If I was” vs. “If I were”?

If I was… If I were… When is it correct to use “If I was” vs. “If I were” in standard English? Answer SYNOPSIS: Sometimes it must be “if I was”, but at other times it can be “if I were” — and for some speakers in those cases, perhaps even must be “if I … Read more