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Alex80 Oct 18th, 2019 07:38 am

Hi, everyone.
1."I can't get to sleep if I drink a lot of coffee."
Is this sentence zero or first conditional? And why?
2."If he logs on to the British Counsil site, he'll find quite a lot of useful information about courses in Britain."
3.If you want to do a degree in Britain, you'll have to do a one-year foundation course first.
4.Unless he makes a big effort this term, he won't get through the end-of-year exams."
Is it OK grammatically to use zero conditional in (2,3 and 4 )instead? Why or why not?
I mean can I say:
If he........he finds...
If you......have to...
4.Unless he.....he doesn't get through... ?

susan53 Oct 18th, 2019 11:26 am

Re: Conditionals
Hi Alex,

The whole context of "conditional forms" is rubbish. Some colleagues and I once sat down and brainstormed about 89 different variations in about ten minutes! There are only clauses of condition which can be attached to any main clause as long as the meaning is compatible..
Grammar is a device for expressing meaning and different verb forms express different meanings,
So just as two examples:

1. the first form of the verb (like, go, see) generally expresses permanent or habitual events - eg He likes dogs / He sees Mary every Saturday.
2, Will expresses predictions or volition (eg willingness to do something) - eg There will definitely be a rail strike next week / I'll help you

Either of these (or any other verb form) can be put into an if clause - ie a clause of condition:
If he likes dogs...
If you'll help us...

and can be followed by a clause expressing any compatible meaning :
If he likes dogs, it was strange that he so frightened by mine.
If he likes dogs, maybe he would look after mine while I'm on holiday.
If he likes dogs, he must have been really happy when he saw all yours!
If you'll help us, it solves the whole problem.
If you'll help us, it will solve the whole problem.
If you'll help us, it would solve the whole problem.

And so on. There are no such things as "set" conditional structures. You need to think about the meaning the speaker wants to express in each clause, and the verbs needed to do so. And then just put them together.

I strongly recommend reading Michael Lewis' book The English Verb to understand this more fully. Google it.

So in answer to your question :

1. Both clauses express permanent/habitual events, so the first form verbs are fine in both.

2 and 3 : Both of the If clauses would probably be understood as expressing a permanent event ( expressed by a first form verb (Any time you log on... / Anyone who wants to do... at any time ...). The speaker might then choose to express the following clause as a prediction (he'll find.../you'll have to) or as another permanent fact (you find.../ you have to) So either is possible. Or 101 other possibilities :
If you want to do a degree in Britain...
a) you should start preparing now.
b) you're going to have to do IELTs
c) you've probably already found out about the costs


4. Here the idea of a permanent event/fact wouldn't make sense in the second clause. The speaker if making a prediction. So the first form verb (doesn't get through) makes no sense. You need some sort of prediction - which again might be expressed in a variety of ways:

Unless he makes a big effort this term,
a) he won't get through the end-of-year exams
b) he may not get through...
c) he's unlikely to get through...


So forget about assigning numbers to sentence types. Think instead of the meaning you want to express and the verbs and other expressions that do this.

Alex80 Oct 19th, 2019 03:45 am

Re: Conditionals
Thank you so much for your convicing and logical explanation.

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