English grammar teachers like to teach about conditional conjunctions because they are in fact a very easy concept to teach. There are only a few of these words, and we use them a lot in spoken and written English. Most students often understand how these conjunctions work, but they have never considered that they are in fact conjunctions.
Before being introduced to the grammatical concept of conditional conjunctions, most students imagine that “if” is in fact an article – it is a short, seemingly unimportant word that changes the meaning of a sentence. However, conditional conjunctions are a critical part of the English language – make sure your students understand why! Read on to learn more about conditional conjunctions and how they work in the English language.
Conditional conjunctions are one thing, but it is important to understand what a conjunction itself is before you worry about different types of them. Conjunctions generally help put two phrases of a sentence together. It makes it possible for two different ideas to hinge upon each other within one sentence. With conjunctions, we are able to write more complex sentences than we would without them – and we can certainly write longer sentences because of them, too.
Conditional conjunctions, in short, are used to describe a condition. It is really that simple. These words include unless, since, and if. By using conditional conjunctions, we are showing that one clause of a sentence is dependent upon the other clause being possible. We often use conditional conjunctions to describe hypothetical situations, or to explain why something has happened, will happened, or is currently happening.
Ask yourself: Am I trying to explain that something will happen on the condition that another thing will happen? If so, you will probably use a conditional conjunctions to express that idea in a sentence.
Here are a few sample sentences that use conditional conjunctions to hook two ideas together.
In each of the sample sentences above, the structure indicates that the second part of each sentence is a result of the first part of each sentence. We know that because of the conditional conjunctions, “if” and “since,” that are used in the sentences.
The best way to get a handle on conditional conjunctions is to practice using them. Have your students look at the following paragraph: Ccan they find all of the conditional conjunctions?
Since it is spring, there are many flowers in the garden. You can pick one, if you like! They smell so good since I take good care of them. Unless you lack the capacity to smell, you will probably enjoy the way the rose smells. If you get me my scissors, I’ll cut some for you to take home with you!
There are a lot of exercises, games, and worksheets available online for your students to use in order to practice their conditional conjunctions. Here are some that many students and teachers alike find especially helpful:
For more information about conditional conjunctions, there are several great textbooks that cover the topic well and offer additional exercises that helps students understand conditional conjunctions. Many English teachers will be willing to help you learn about conditional conjunctions as well.