If … should; if … happen to
We use these structures to talk about events and situations that are very unlikely.
- If you should finish early, give me a ring.
- OR If you should happen to finish early, give me a ring.
- If he should be late, we will leave without him.
- OR If he should happen to be late, we will leave without him.
If … was/were to
This is another way of talking about unreal or imaginary future events.
- If the boss was/were to come in now, we would be in real trouble. (=If the boss came in now, …)
This structure is also used to make a suggestion sound more polite.
- If you were to move your chair a bit, we could all sit down.
If I were you …
This structure is often used to give advice.
- If I were you, I would get that car serviced.
- If I was you … is also possible.
If only …! means the same as I wish… We use If only …! to say that we would like things to be different.
- If only I was better-looking.
We can use were instead of was.
- If only I were better-looking.
Note that after If only …! we use past tenses to talk about the present.
- If only I was/were richer.
To refer to the future we use would + infinitive.
- If only somebody would help!
To refer to the past, we use had + past participle.
- If only she hadn’t told the police, everything would have been all right.