Conversational Structures With If

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

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.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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