More conditional forms

Having explored the function ofexpress hypothetical meaning the first, second and third conditionals in a previous post, here we consider more conditional forms that do not necessarily follow the conditional clause + dependent clause structure, but do still express hypothetical meaning.

 

We can use our verb constructions in English to express hypothetical meaning, namely that something will not, does not or did not take place:

 

  • wish + past subjunctive (to show regret)
    I wish I were able to collaborate with you in your research. (But unfortunately I won’t be able to.)
    They wish they were more wealthy and could help. (But they are not wealthy, so they can’t help.)

 

  • would + love (to express hypothetical meaning)
    She would love to take a PhD in astrophysics. (But she can’t at this present time.)
    I’d love to be an engineer. (But I can’t, or at least not currently.)

 

  • if only + backshifted tense (to express hypothetical meaning)
    If only they were staying a little longer. (But unfortunately they are not.)
    If only we knew where that charger was. (But we don’t know where it is.)

 

  • if + past tense in conditional clause / would in dependent clause (to express hypothetical meaning)
    If we found a precious stone lying outside a jeweller’s, we would return it to the owner. (This hasn’t happened yet, but if it did …)
    I would ask for his autograph if I met Lionel Messi. (This hasn’t happened yet, but if it did …)

 

  • if + was/were / (modal)infinitive in dependent clause (to express hypothetical meaning)
    If you were to study harder, you might achieve that distinction grade. (This is possible.)
    She would enjoy the concert if she were to go. (This is possible.)

 

  • imagine + past subjunctive (to express hypothetical meaning)
    Imagine that civilian space travel were a reality in the modern era. (It isn’t.)
    Imagine if aliens really were here on Earth. (I don’t believe they are.)