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English Grammar in Use (10) When and If sentences (When I do … If I do ……..)

6:34 AM / Posted by 2easy_Team /

When and If sentences (When I do … If I do ……..)

A) Study this example:

A: What time will you phone me tonight?

B: I'll phone you when I get home from work.


'I'll phone you when I get home from work' is sentence with two parts: 'I'll phone you' (the main part) and 'when I get home from work' (the when part). The sentence is future (tonight) but you cannot use will or going to in the when part of the sentence. Instead we use a present tense, usually present simple (I do).

- I'll send you a postcard when I'm on holiday. (not 'when I will be')

- When the rain stops, we'll go out. (not 'when the rain will stop')


 The same thing happens after:

while               after                 before              until / till                      as soon as

- Can you look after the children while I am out? (not 'will be')

- Before you leave, you must visit the museum. (not 'will leave')

- Wait here until I come back. (not 'will come')


B) You can also use the present perfect (I have done) after when / after / until etc. to show that the first action will be finished before the second:

- When I've read this book, you can have it.

- Don't say anything while Tom is here. Wait here until he has gone.


It is often possible to use present simple or present perfect:

- I'll come as soon as I finish.

Or                    I'll come as soon as I've finished.

- You'll feel better after you have something to eat.             

Or        You 'll feel better after you've had something to eat.

C) After if we also use the present simple I do for the future:

- It's raining. We'll get wet if we go out. (not 'if we will go')

- Hurry up! If you don't hurry, we'll be late. (not 'if we wont' hurry').


Be careful not to confuse when and if.

Use when for things which are sure to happen:

- I'm going shopping this afternoon. If I go shopping, I'll buy some food.

- If it rains this evening. I won't go out. (not 'when it rains')

Don't worry if I'm late tonight. (not 'when I'm late')

- If he doesn't come soon, I'm not going to wait. (not 'when he doesn't come').



Anonymous on December 24, 2011 at 5:08 AM

I dun get it

Anonymous on April 28, 2014 at 8:27 PM

Brilliant. Thanks alot

Anonymous on May 10, 2014 at 9:05 PM

could you tell me ______?

a) when does the bank open?
b) when the bank opens?
the correct answer is a but why not b. I don't understand thank you

Anonymous on May 10, 2014 at 9:06 PM

sorry I made a mistake the correct answer is b but why not a. thank you

Anonymous on November 17, 2014 at 7:47 PM

this is called an embedded question. "When does the bank open?" is a question in itself and cannot be used inside another question. Therefore, when using embedded questions, the "second question" (as we might refer to it) is not written in the question form, but as a statement: Could you tell me when 'the bank opens'?

I'm sorry if I am not clear enough.

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Comment by lee woo on December 14, 2015 at 12:19 AM

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Comment by sarah lee on December 23, 2015 at 4:59 PM

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Anonymous on January 24, 2017 at 10:09 AM

Thanks a lot..
May I ask
What type of conditional this sentence is?
(Don't worry if I'm late tonight)
Is it zero or first?

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